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Old 11-30-2019, 07:06 PM
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"Americans are dying at alarming rates". Does it feel that way from where you sit?


From https://www.latimes.com/science/stor...ths-of-despair.

Quote:
Preliminary signals of declining health were neither a false alarm nor a statistical fluke. A reversal of American life expectancy, a downward trend that has now been sustained for three years in a row, is a grim new reality of life in the United States.

New research establishes that after decades of living longer and longer lives, Americans are dying earlier, cut down increasingly in the prime of life by drug overdoses, suicides and diseases such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and obesity.

The ills claiming the lives of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 vary widely by geography, gender and ethnicity. But the authors of the new study suggest that the nation’s lifespan reversal is being driven by diseases linked to social and economic privation, a healthcare system with glaring gaps and blind spots, and profound psychological distress.

The twin trends — an increased probability of death in midlife and a population-wide reversal of longevity — set the United States in stark contrast to every other affluent country in the world. Those trends are detailed in a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. (JAMA).
None of this is surprising to me. But I can't say it's because I've been exposed to any first-hand experiences. In my immediate social circle, everyone between the ages of 25 and 64 seems to be bumping around like everything's OK.

In the outer ring of my social circle, I know of someone in this demographic who is struggling from alcoholism and almost died. But she's still alive at present.

It is not surprising to me that Americans are dying prematurely since I'm bombarded by news about how unhealthy we are and how unpleasant life is for the average American. If I didn't hear this news on a regular basis, I have no doubt that I'd be under the belief that things have never been better.

So I guess I'm wondering how close to home does this news article hit for you? Have you witnessed an uptick of dead young people in your community? Do you feel like you will likely be another statistic?
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Old 11-30-2019, 07:21 PM
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Lost a brother in law in his 40s to cancer. A friend in his 40s to suicide. A friend in her 40s to breast cancer. Acquaintances - one heart attack (50s), one drug overdose (late 30s). I've been to more funerals for friends than my parents who are in their 70s.
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Old 11-30-2019, 07:32 PM
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That's a lot of lost loved ones. I'm sorry, Dangerosa.
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Old 11-30-2019, 07:57 PM
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I'm always shocked how many of my students have faced loss, of a parent, a sibling, aunts and uncles. Often they come up in a college essay, when I had no idea that they had lost a loved one. The causes are exactly what is detailed in the article: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, violence. But with poor kids, these things are fatal earlier--it's uncles and aunts and parents dying in their 40s and 50s. This is one of the things schools in lower-income areas have to deal with--more of our kids have faced devastating loss, and they often have less resources to deal with it. Plus, for every dad killed by diabetes or depression or catastrophic injury/violence, there are 5 more that were rendered unemployed by the same thing.
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:25 PM
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No, not seeing it. Well much. A suicide recently. And a younger person's drug related death. But that relativ e lack is because of where I live and the privilege bubble I live within.

The article references that these are mostly drug and suicide deaths and how they are concentrated:
Quote:
... the rise in premature deaths was often most evident in regions and states that have weathered steep job losses, population outflows, and a consequent hollowing out of local civic and social institutions. Many states that have suffered most had a less-educated workforce, and are not magnets for the influx of immigrants, whose arrival might compensate for population loss. ...

... States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana underwent profound job losses, a steady decline in population, and progressive social changes — from disbanded sports teams and shuttered hospitals and churches to closed barbershops and cafes.

Those four states account for less than 11% of the U.S. population. But between 2010 and 2017, they were home to nearly one-third of the excess deaths ...
Let's state it even more clearly: if you are a poster living in an urban or suburban location you, like me, are not as likely seeing this as much as rural Americans do. There is a huge rural American mortality penalty.
Quote:
The rural–urban mortality disparity was persistent, growing, and large when compared to other place-based disparities. The penalty had evolved into a high-poverty, rural penalty that rivaled the effects of education and exceeded the effects of race by 2016. ...
Some more specifics.
Quote:
Age-adjusted suicide rates varied considerably based on a person's environment. In 2017, the age adjusted rate for the most rural counties was 1.8 times the rate for the most urban counties. The overall age-adjusted suicide rate for the most rural counties was 53 percent higher in 2017 than in 1999.
(FWIW both rural and urban areas are seeing the drug overdose death increases.)

Also sorry for your losses Dangerosa.

Last edited by DSeid; 11-30-2019 at 08:26 PM.
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:43 PM
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Oh, I forgot one. I ran a Girl Scout troop from 1st grade through middle school. Six weeks before her high school graduation, one of my former Scouts killed herself.

And my kids went to school here: https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-a...13-p4zl83.html

each of them lost a classmate to cancer.
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Old 11-30-2019, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Dangerosa View Post
Lost a brother in law in his 40s to cancer. A friend in his 40s to suicide. A friend in her 40s to breast cancer. Acquaintances - one heart attack (50s), one drug overdose (late 30s). I've been to more funerals for friends than my parents who are in their 70s.
I'm so sorry!



I work in nursing homes and feel like I see as many people in their 80s and 90s but more of those who are in their 50s and 60s.
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Old 11-30-2019, 09:13 PM
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Part of it is due to a larger social network, friend of a friend of a friend. As the OP mentioned, there's his/her inner circle of friends and an outer circle of friends. When someone on this forum is ill or passes away we tend to count them as a friend, when in reality for the most part they're just someone we know very little about online.
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Old 11-30-2019, 09:13 PM
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It should be noted that hand-wringing about life expectancy flattening out or declining is not confined to the United States.

Similar trends have been observed in Britain and the EU.
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Old 11-30-2019, 09:32 PM
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Most of the people I know who died between ages 25 and 64 were cancer deaths. Suicide is next, and I've always been surprised that suicide is more often than not one of the top 10 causes of death listed on CDC's website, and that's not just a recent finding. While we're not at the top of the global list, we're pretty close to the top when it comes to first-world countries. I'd also submit that some deaths that aren't counted as suicides probably are. That's fucked up, and we don't seem to be anywhere near close to fixing it.
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Old 11-30-2019, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
Part of it is due to a larger social network, friend of a friend of a friend. As the OP mentioned, there's his/her inner circle of friends and an outer circle of friends. When someone on this forum is ill or passes away we tend to count them as a friend, when in reality for the most part they're just someone we know very little about online.
I'm kind of confused by what you're referring to when you say "part of it". Part of what? The research I linked to isn't based on a survey ("How many people have died in your social circle?"), but on actual data (the US Mortality Database and CDC WONDER). Do you not believe the findings of this research?
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Old 11-30-2019, 10:19 PM
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Class of 1980 here, my data comes from our 20th reunion, out of 420 bodies I knew of 3 deaths, one got whacked by a drunk driver within weeks of graduation, one was killed by a sniper in Beirut, and the third had her brother come home and kill everyone in the house. I'm sure that more have passed beyond the rim since, but I haven't heard of any more not coming down for breakfast.

In my family, out of 14 in my generation, we are down one, lost to breast cancer. (Current ages 60-40)
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Old 11-30-2019, 11:06 PM
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I just thought of two coworkers who died of breast cancer within the past couple years. One was in her 30/40s and the other was in her 50s. I didn't know either of them well, but they seemed like lovely people.
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Old 11-30-2019, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I'm kind of confused by what you're referring to when you say "part of it". Part of what? The research I linked to isn't based on a survey ("How many people have died in your social circle?"), but on actual data (the US Mortality Database and CDC WONDER). Do you not believe the findings of this research?
Your OP ended with the question "So I guess I'm wondering how close to home does this news article hit for you? Have you witnessed an uptick of dead young people in your community? Do you feel like you will likely be another statistic?" and I posit that a larger social increases the odds of knowing someone how died earlier than expected.

As for the article and paper https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jam...tm_term=112619 it's been proven that statistics are subject to interpretation, repeatable results and peer review. I take any news article with a grain of salt until more data and research is completed.

From the paper:

"Limitations

This review and analysis have several limitations. First, mortality data are subject to errors, among them inaccurate ascertainment of cause of death, race misclassification and undercounting, and numerator-denominator mismatching.187,188 These are especially problematic in interpreting mortality rates in the American Indian and Alaska Native population, although disparities persist in this population even in studies that circumvent these challenges.189 Other limitations include the weak statistical power of annual state mortality rates and their inability to account for substate variation, the limits of age adjustment, age-aggregation bias, and the omission of cause-specific mortality data from before 1999.190 Purported rate increases may also reflect lagged selection bias.191 Second, errors in coding, such as the misclassification of suicides as overdoses,192 or changes (or geographic differences) in coding practices could also introduce errors. For example, some increases in maternal mortality rates may reflect heightened surveillance and the addition of a pregnancy checkbox on death certificates.193-195 Changes in coding or awareness may partly explain the increase in age-adjusted mortality rates from mental and nervous system disorders, an international trend.196 Third, state mortality rates may also reflect demographic changes, such as immigration patterns (and the immigrant paradox197-199) or the out-migration of highly educated, healthy individuals.5"

Last edited by lingyi; 11-30-2019 at 11:29 PM.
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Old 11-30-2019, 11:40 PM
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nm

Last edited by monstro; 11-30-2019 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 12-01-2019, 12:00 AM
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As DSeid notes, I live in a solidly middle-class, suburban area, as do most of my friends. So, I'm likely insulated from some of this trend.

But, that said:

- In the past six months, I've lost two good friends to cancer. Both of them were under age 50, and both of them suffered from other health conditions which exacerbated things (one had MS, one had early-onset Alzheimer's).

- I'm 54 years old; my high school class graduated in 1983. In my class (a Catholic all-boys school, in Wisconsin), we had 75 boys. So far, we have suffered 6 deaths (all before age 50): two suicides (both related to substance abuse), one from a heart attack, one from cancer, one from complications from AIDS, and one in a snowmobile accident.
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Old 12-01-2019, 02:35 AM
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Considering that the rate of opiod overdose deaths has skyrocketed in recent years, I was not in the least surprised by this news. That, along with the high rate of gun deaths, is something that other developed countries do not share.

ETA: our lack of Universal Health Care is also a factor. We're getting a triple whammy and it's all our own doing.

Last edited by dtilque; 12-01-2019 at 02:37 AM.
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:06 AM
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... States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana underwent profound job losses, a steady decline in population, and progressive social changes — from disbanded sports teams and shuttered hospitals and churches to closed barbershops and cafes.

Those four states account for less than 11% of the U.S. population. But between 2010 and 2017, they were home to nearly one-third of the excess deaths ...
My parents are both first borns. Their younger siblings are already dead (2/3) or in much worse health than my parents (⅓). My parents moved away from one of the listed states and probably had/have a much better situation than they would have had otherwise. Many people don't like change, and when the jobs dried up, they couldn't/wouldn't adapt. Not willing to move, not willing to go back to school. Many of my cousins are underemployed and seem to be missing the drive to do something different.

Even though my parents to live in a relatively well-off are, they recently attended a funeral for their friend's daughter. And they will not be surprised if the other daughter follows. Meth. It's taking people from all walks of life.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:00 AM
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Many people don't like change, and when the jobs dried up, they couldn't/wouldn't adapt. Not willing to move, not willing to go back to school.
It takes money to go back to school. That's hard if you have no income because you lost your job. Sure, you can borrow the money, but that's getting less popular now that student loans have become a gateway for debt slavery for those who did go back to school but still couldn't find a better-than-retail job in a place like Indiana.

More personally, I have very few family left. Since 2007 I've lost both parents, the in-laws, my spouse, and two nephews under 30.

In my area, it seems to be traffic accidents, drugs, work accidents (steel mills, farming, and other heavy industry eats people), alcohol, and drugs. And we're doing better than a lot of the rest of the state because Chicago helps boost the economy around here.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:42 AM
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Yeah, going back to school? Unless it's to get a GED, I'd advise against it. That's what I did when I got laid off, and all I got out of it is $ 41,000 in debt that's bankruptcy-proof.

Stupidest decision I ever made, and I wish I chose instead to highlight my thirty years of experience, although that would've put some employers off due to my age. I'll be paying this useless shit off when I'm in a nursing home.

Or I could just die young.

Last edited by Two Many Cats; 12-01-2019 at 05:42 AM.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:50 AM
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I'm definitely seeing it. I can think of close to 10 people I've known (most are acquaintances and some are friends or relatives of acquaintances) who've died of drug overdoses or suicides -- white males, every one of them. Lost a female HS acquaintance to domestic violence (murder-suicide).

Most are suicides, though. People who felt like financial or social failures, had some alcohol, had a gun nearby. Ended it all. And left everyone else to deal with it for the rest of their lives.
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Old 12-01-2019, 06:44 AM
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From https://www.latimes.com/science/stor...ths-of-despair.



It is not surprising to me that Americans are dying prematurely since I'm bombarded by news about how unhealthy we are and how unpleasant life is for the average American. If I didn't hear this news on a regular basis, I have no doubt that I'd be under the belief that things have never been better.

So I guess I'm wondering how close to home does this news article hit for you? Have you witnessed an uptick of dead young people in your community? Do you feel like you will likely be another statistic?
Does it feel that way from where I sit? Nope, not even close. I've never seen life this great or so enjoyable. I live in the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas, and it is literally a boomtown here. We're growing at a rate of about 340 people per day, and have been since 2010. My house is in a nice area and it's value grows every week (tripled in value over that time). It's like we're the new California, there is a shortage of qualified workers, and companies are desperate to hire if you have the right skills -- frankly, the future's so bright we gotta wear shades.

Just checked, out of curiosity and this week's business relocating here? Charles Schwab. Moving their headquarters from San Francisco. Bringing eventually 7000 new people if I read the article correctly. They are joining others who've moved headquarters here: Toyota, Frito-Lay, Pizza Hut, Keurig, Dr Pepper, Penneys, to name a few. Just from the Bay Area we've gotten Bare Escentuals, Jamba Juice, Krave, Bechtel, Schwab (mentioned above), Core Mark, DJO and Lyft. The Dallas Business Journal claims that most of the 1800 companies that left California in the last few years came here.

My wife just got another raise and a bonus, my kids are making bank like you wouldn't believe -- my daughter wanted to take a month to travel Europe and her company agreed to hold her position while gone (she was out of vacation time). I retired when I realized I'd make more money not working. And my old company has asked if I'd be willing to return since there's such a shortage. Last month I got a lot of electrical work done on the house, and when the electrician realized I knew what I was doing he offered me a job as well. Almost every business I enter is hiring and has "Help Wanted" signs of some kind.

Every one I know is doing great, new house, new cars, new toys and celebrating substantial investment gains in this market. The malaise you mention isn't present in my world.

Last edited by pullin; 12-01-2019 at 06:46 AM.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:53 AM
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I'm so sorry!


The person this has hit most is my youngest. They lost an uncle and the 50 year old suicide was one of those friends of your parents you are close to that might as well be an uncle. One to cancer in elementary school - and another who survived, but lost his entire family in a fire in elementary school - they weren't close to either, but when there are 100 kids in your grade in your elementary school, you know everyone. And then to lose a friend to suicide - all before you graduate from high school. There is a reason that there is a lot of anxiety, and it isn't just my own genetics at play.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:57 AM
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Every one I know is doing great, new house, new cars, new toys and celebrating substantial investment gains in this market. The malaise you mention isn't present in my world.

Yeah...that's sort of like saying hunger doesn't exist because I just ate.

I too am not experiencing "Americans are dying at alarming rates", but I'm well off and live in an affluent suburb of New York.

The article quotes:
Quote:
The timing of those excess deaths may offer clues, said Woolf. During the 1980s and ‘90s and accelerating into the 2000s, middle-class incomes stagnated. Rates of child poverty grew and the rolls of the uninsured swelled. The distribution of wealth in the United States began to concentrate densely at the top of the economic ladder.
I mostly didn't experience this either. I graduated college in 1995 and basically worked professional jobs, more or less increasing in income and responsibility. It wasn't a journey without setbacks, but I didn't experience long periods of my adult life working "underemployed" jobs. Even people I know who did eventually moved into professional careers.

And if anything, I've only seen improvements over that same period in Pennsylvania. At least in the Pittsburgh and A-B-E areas. Although having just made that drive over the weekend, I can't imagine what it's like to live in the hilly wooded spaces in between.

Even my high school class of 1991, I can only recall one death (a motorcycle accident) out of 250 students. There may be a couple others who no one knows about because they fell off the radar.



Which is not to say that I am discounting those statistics. Just to point out that I think "America" is very different depending on where you live.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:37 AM
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The people I've known who died earlier than one would expect have been due to tobacco (lung cancer, lung cancer which spread to colon, throat cancer from chewing tobacco...).

There are significant differences among states. Look at
1. U.S. states by life expectancy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ife_expectancy
2. Prevalence of smoking
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preval...te_US_2010.png
3. U.S. states by Income
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ries_by_income
4. U.S. states by Opioid Deaths
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opioid...n_by_state.gif
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Old 12-01-2019, 10:34 AM
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Does it feel that way from where I sit? Nope, not even close. I've never seen life this great or so enjoyable. I live in the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas, and it is literally a boomtown here. We're growing at a rate of about 340 people per day, and have been since 2010. My house is in a nice area and it's value grows every week (tripled in value over that time). It's like we're the new California, there is a shortage of qualified workers, and companies are desperate to hire if you have the right skills -- frankly, the future's so bright we gotta wear shades.

Just checked, out of curiosity and this week's business relocating here? Charles Schwab. Moving their headquarters from San Francisco. Bringing eventually 7000 new people if I read the article correctly. They are joining others who've moved headquarters here: Toyota, Frito-Lay, Pizza Hut, Keurig, Dr Pepper, Penneys, to name a few. Just from the Bay Area we've gotten Bare Escentuals, Jamba Juice, Krave, Bechtel, Schwab (mentioned above), Core Mark, DJO and Lyft. The Dallas Business Journal claims that most of the 1800 companies that left California in the last few years came here.

My wife just got another raise and a bonus, my kids are making bank like you wouldn't believe -- my daughter wanted to take a month to travel Europe and her company agreed to hold her position while gone (she was out of vacation time). I retired when I realized I'd make more money not working. And my old company has asked if I'd be willing to return since there's such a shortage. Last month I got a lot of electrical work done on the house, and when the electrician realized I knew what I was doing he offered me a job as well. Almost every business I enter is hiring and has "Help Wanted" signs of some kind.

Every one I know is doing great, new house, new cars, new toys and celebrating substantial investment gains in this market. The malaise you mention isn't present in my world.
Understand, this is about class, not geography. I"m in DFW, too--and, as I mentioned above, so many of my students are affected by early deaths. Untreated diabetes and cancer. Work injuries. Heart attacks.

Check out this link. It's life expectancy in Texas by zip code. In Uptown and the far North suburbs, it's is over 90--but just to the south, right south of the river, it's 67--about the same as Ghana, or Papua New Guinea.

Even with low unemployment, poor people can't afford medical care--not the kind of care that pays for diabetes or cancer treatment.
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Old 12-01-2019, 11:19 AM
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I too am comfortably middle class, but when I go back to West Virginia for reunions and such, I encounter more of what the OP is talking about.

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend I've known since childhood. We were both in our mid-50s. When I mentioned that I was getting ready to retire on a pension in a few years, he expressed surprise that I was planning to do this. He said I probably had enough money already, so why continue working? It was two completely different views on life expectancy, money, and promised benefits.
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Old 12-01-2019, 12:13 PM
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Although for me, it hasn't been about class. Its about cancer (where death rates do go up if you are poor and don't get good treatment - but that isn't the case here - here its a combination of bad luck and toxic groundwater. Suicide - which can take even the likes of Kate Spade or Robin Williams. The acquaintance we lost to a heart attack a few weeks ago was a middle class white guy in his 50s - a little overweight - but that's the age where heart attacks can take a relatively "young" person regardless of class - its statistically worse if you are poor, African American, male and overweight, but statistically, heart attacks also go up for middle class slightly overweight white guys in their 50s, too.

So I'm taking the statistical hit for you guys who have never lost anyone.

I think the overall statistics tie a lot to class - the economically disenfranchised (how is that for a politically correct way to say poor people), don't have good access to heath care, are more likely to commit suicide and are the epicenter of the opioid crisis. But there is also something about just having the bad luck to have friends and relatives die young while someone else is in the statistical anomaly (like my parents) where all their friends and close relatives have lived to be 70 or more.
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Old 12-01-2019, 12:29 PM
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Downward mobility is increasing in the US.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:09 PM
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I'm seeing it. I just saw another former co-worker in the obituaries last week. She died in her early 50s but I don't know the cause. In the last five years or so I've had several former (or current at the time) co-workers die at young ages. Early 20s of an undiagnosed heart condition, mid 30s of liver disease, early 50s of a stroke, mid 40s of cancer, mid 30s suicide.

Going back a bit further my dad died late 50s of complications of diabetes and I had an uncle die in his 30s due to alcoholism.

My high school class (graduated early 90s) I know of several deaths from car accidents, one suicide, and one in military action.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:18 PM
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Yeah...that's sort of like saying hunger doesn't exist because I just ate.
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
Understand, this is about class, not geography.
Check out this link. It's life expectancy in Texas by zip code. In Uptown and the far North suburbs, it's is over 90--but just to the south, right south of the river, it's 67--about the same as Ghana, or Papua New Guinea.


I understand what both of you are saying, but monstro specifically asked how it feels "from where you sit?" I took that to mostly mean my geographic area -- so I answered truthfully.

Had I interpreted the OP's question as you have (about the larger picture), I would have replied with anecdotes from my recent travels. I've mentioned before that I'm a sort of "wanderer" and tend to roam around a lot out of curiosity. In the months since I've retired, I've RV'd through a LOT of Texas and parts of NM, CO, OK, AR, TN, KY, and OH. As much as time permits, I travel via small towns and highways rather than interstates.

I've noticed some disturbing trends in small towns with a 5 digit (or less) populations. They always seem to feature a new dollar store and a closed factory or mill. Usually on opposite sides of the town for some reason. I told my wife if I lived in a small town and a Dollar General opened up, I'd sell and move immediately. I spent 9 days in a burg in S Texas so small it had no traffic light, and those places seem to be in dire straits. I went there to fish, but I think a lot of those casting alongside me were hunting groceries instead of passing the time.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:40 PM
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I had a student this year who wrote about his realization that they were foshing for food, not fun, when he was about ten. But he was fishing out of some sort of creek behind his apartments in South Dallas. I was like "OMG, you ate fish out of the TRINITY? ! " and he was like "oh no, it was a creek behind our apartments". You ate fish out of a DRAINAGE DITCH for the Trinity? " He looked all chagrined "I know, I know, we probably overfished it to hell". No clue that maybe a creek used to dump god only knows what industrial waste for generations migjt not be a great place to eat fish out of. I honestly worry he elevated his cancer odds.
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:32 PM
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Considering that the rate of opiod overdose deaths has skyrocketed in recent years, I was not in the least surprised by this news. That, along with the high rate of gun deaths, is something that other developed countries do not share.

ETA: our lack of Universal Health Care is also a factor. We're getting a triple whammy and it's all our own doing.
IIRC, most recent stats show average age at death in Canada is now 4 years older than those in the US so your “universal health care” comment definitely has traction.
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:39 PM
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IIRC, most recent stats show average age at death in Canada is now 4 years older than those in the US so your “universal health care” comment definitely has traction.
Canadian life expectancy has been plateauing and trends suggest it could start falling, due to some of the same factors seen in the U.S. (including deaths associated with mental health issues and substance abuse).
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:43 PM
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I live in Chicago and grew up in a suburb next door. In the past 10-ish years:

Father (actually stepfather, but was more of a father than the actual biodad) of a high school friend, suicide in his late 60s, I think? after stroke, diabetes, and heart issues meant he couldn't live how he wanted

Suicide of the older brother of a childhood friend, in his early 40s

My sister's MIL, cancer, I think early 50s? (She lived in Iowa.)

Younger sister of a close HS friend, breast cancer that was discovered on a routine annual gyno exam at stage 4, after it had already spread to her liver and bones, age 43

ETA a HS friend I'd fallen out of touch with, suicide - lay down on the train tracks after carefully leaning his bike against a nearby tree. Early 40s.

All of the people above had access to good health insurance, and only one might be considered non-middle-class.

Last edited by Eva Luna; 12-01-2019 at 03:46 PM.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:02 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but for all the wailing about the decline of the average lifespan in the US, aren't we only talking about a matter of a month or two shorter than the highest point?

In the past 15 years I've only known six people who have died:

- Ellie, in her late 50s, was morbidly obese and died of congestive heart failure
- Brad, mid-50s, had a heart attack while driving that lead to a fatal crash
- My mom, 59, got the flu and then antibiotic-resistant pneumonia
- My dad, 69, had COPD for several years, and then congestive heart failure that lead to a fatal heart attack
- Jack, 35, and Evie, 21, died in separate fatal car accidents. Jack caused his accident passing illegally, and they think Evie was texting.

This feels like a normal amount of deaths to me.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:09 PM
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I had a student this year who wrote about his realization that they were foshing for food, not fun, when he was about ten. But he was fishing out of some sort of creek behind his apartments in South Dallas. I was like "OMG, you ate fish out of the TRINITY? ! " and he was like "oh no, it was a creek behind our apartments". You ate fish out of a DRAINAGE DITCH for the Trinity? " He looked all chagrined "I know, I know, we probably overfished it to hell". No clue that maybe a creek used to dump god only knows what industrial waste for generations migjt not be a great place to eat fish out of. I honestly worry he elevated his cancer odds.
You want to know something sad?

People will still fish out of streams (and consume what they catch) regardless how much signage you put up informing them of their risk. Because if you're hungry enough, you aren't going to pass up a free meal...even if that free meal is full of god-knows-what.

When I was in grad school, I'd often catch shrimp out of a little creek in Linden, NJ. The creek was smackdab in the middle of a bunch of oil refineries. On the bridge where I would drop my nets, there was a big sign letting people know not to eat anything they caught. But every weekend that bridge was full of people, casting various nets and traps and poles. And they'd take home a feast, because that creek was very productive despite how polluted it was (turns out that pollution kills off parasites, and their absence allows for more reproduction and growth in fish, crabs, and their prey. But I digress...).

One day as I was hauling in my nets, one of the anglers came up to me to make chitchat. I told him I was a graduate student doing research on the effects of pollution on aquatic life. He said, "Everyone's always talking about how contaminated this creek is, but I've been fishing here for years and nothing bad has happened to me!" But to see this man's face, you'd know that wasn't true at all. His eyes were all cloudy and going in different directions, and his skin was all messed up. It looked like a lot of bad stuff had happened to him. But since he was still standing on two feet, he was OK in his book.

I think about that guy all these years later because his attitude (which is very widespread) makes my job more difficult. Even my mother is fond of saying "We all gotta die of something." I used to have a good response to that, but now I struggle not sounding like a phony. I don't eat locally caught fish, but I do eat fish every week. And I know that buying them from the grocery store means very little. They are contaminated at levels that are probably just as high as (if not higher than) the thresholds the health department uses for fish consumption advisories for local anglers. Am I going to stop eating fish any time soon? Nope. Cuz nothing bad has happened to me yet and we all gotta die of something. And I get out of bed faster in the morning when I know catfish is on the breakfast menu.

Habits are really hard to break, even if when you are well-informed.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:16 PM
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I had a student this year who wrote about his realization that they were foshing for food, not fun, when he was about ten. But he was fishing out of some sort of creek behind his apartments in South Dallas. I was like "OMG, you ate fish out of the TRINITY? ! " and he was like "oh no, it was a creek behind our apartments". You ate fish out of a DRAINAGE DITCH for the Trinity? " He looked all chagrined "I know, I know, we probably overfished it to hell". No clue that maybe a creek used to dump god only knows what industrial waste for generations migjt not be a great place to eat fish out of. I honestly worry he elevated his cancer odds.
Yeah, but when the choice is "eat the fish so I don't starve today or this week" vs. "maybe get cancer in 20 years, assuming you can get enough to eat so you live that long" it becomes easier to see why people might make such choices. And while his family might not have actually been that desperate, when you're going to bed hungry you're not always thinking about long-term consequences.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:22 PM
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Alarming would be more than once per person.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:23 PM
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Yeah, but when the choice is "eat the fish so I don't starve today or this week" vs. "maybe get cancer in 20 years, assuming you can get enough to eat so you live that long" it becomes easier to see why people might make such choices. And while his family might not have actually been that desperate, when you're going to bed hungry you're not always thinking about long-term consequences.
I understand why they were doing it. That was the point of the anecdote. In this particular kid's case, the turnaround point was that they dowcovered couponing. Basically, mom and dad were living like poor people in Vietnam--fishing, enlisting the little kids to work late at night making dumplings to sell. Doing what they grew up doing to get by. When my kid got old enough to sorta read, he brought home a coupon (in Spanish) because he thought it was money. Mom figured out what it did and rhe implications. Soon my kid and his brother were sent out before dawn every Sunday to gather newspapers, strip the coupons, and redeliver them. Mom became an expert at low cost shopping. I suspect she resold a lot. They quit needing to eat ditch fish.

I found it a facinating story of how people adapt. And when my kid is an investment banker or whatever, no one is going to believe this was his childhood.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:31 PM
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I came from a lower-middle-class background and now I'm borderline upper-middle class. The upper folks seem to be doing well. The lower-middle class folks are surviving but precarious. When someone loses a job or gets a major medical issue, it's a scary thing that you might never dig out of. And I see a lot of these people getting taken by drug overdoses, people who I wouldn't have expected.
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Old 12-01-2019, 07:32 PM
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The study the op references is worth looking at in some detail.

1. The decrease in life expectancy is driven by mid-life deaths.

2. Indeed worse among the non-college educated.

3. Concentrated increased in midlife death rates geographically, especially "in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%, Massachusetts 12.1%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%), as well as in New Mexico (17.5%), South Dakota (15.5%), Pennsylvania (14.4%), North Dakota (12.7%), Alaska (12.0%), and Maryland (11.0%). In contrast, the nation’s most populous states (California, Texas, and New York) experienced relatively small increases in midlife mortality."

4. "[R]ural US counties experienced larger increases in all-cause midlife mortality than did metropolitan counties" but the details do get complex.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:09 PM
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HBO produced a 2019 documentary based on the OP, "One Nation Under Stress" that follows one doctor's journey in finding out about the truth behind the research. It's an eye-opener. Not sure it's On-Demand anymore, though.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:18 PM
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The growth rate of (reported) mental health problems is astonishing, especially among young people. Colleges are overwhelmed. I'm not surprised that suicide would be more common. This, of course, has little bearing on the rate of suicides among middle aged people.

Drug addiction has been talked about a lot recently. The rate of overdoses are quite high, and essentially skyrocketing. I don't know anyone who I know is a drug addict (beyond alcohol). Of course, chances are I know a drug addict, but I don't know they're a drug addict.

The rates of homelessness increase dramatically, especially in wealthy cities... errr, cities with a wide disparity of incomes. Homeless people are more vulnerable to numerous causes of death, such as exposure.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:35 PM
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Kimera, I don't know any drug addicts either.

But I have a friend who just discovered her daughter is an alcoholic. A few days after my friend told me this, she casually mentioned that she knocks back a bottle of wine every evening. I'm not a drinker, so any amount is a lot to me. But a bottle of wine every night seems like alcoholic territory to me. I kept my mouth closed when she told me this, but I'm kind of worried about my friend now.

I think if my friend told me she takes opioids every night to get high, I would definitely label her an addict. But because wine is legal and socially acceptable, it's harder for me to judge.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:43 PM
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Kimera, I don't know any drug addicts either.

But I have a friend who just discovered her daughter is an alcoholic. A few days after my friend told me this, she casually mentioned that she knocks back a bottle of wine every evening. I'm not a drinker, so any amount is a lot to me. But a bottle of wine every night seems like alcoholic territory to me. I kept my mouth closed when she told me this, but I'm kind of worried about my friend now.

I think if my friend told me she takes opioids every night to get high, I would definitely label her an addict. But because wine is legal and socially acceptable, it's harder for me to judge.
According to Google, a bottle is six glasses. The government defines heavy drinking for a woman more than 7 drinks a week, or more than three drinks a night, ever.

A bottle a night is strongly suggestive of problem drinking. That's way, way more than the average person, or even the average drinker, drinks. Both the amount and the frequency.
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Old 12-01-2019, 08:46 PM
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Old 12-02-2019, 11:54 AM
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I'm 47, and graduated high school in 1991. One guy from our graduating class died of a heart attack, and another of unspecified causes (I suspect drug overdose or suicide, considering who it was). I'm not sure that's statistically unusual for a graduating class of 110 boys though.

Outside of that, it's all third-hand stuff. My sister-in-law's friends (roughly the same age as I am or a little younger) have had a couple of their husbands die unexpectedly- heart attacks IIRC. What's perplexing is that by all accounts, they were in good shape and eating right, etc...
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:08 PM
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Heart attacks can occur at any age, as can strokes, even if people do everything "right" and are healthy and athletic. Just like people who have never smoked can still get lung cancer, and people who have never touched an alcoholic drink can get cirrhosis of the liver. Doing everything "right" reduces the risk, but does not entirely eliminate it.

It doesn't help that people drag morality into the mess, acting as if sick people were sick due to a failure on their part and if so they deserve whatever misery they get. I just wish the world at large was a little kinder and more forgiving, even if it was there'd still be plenty of misery to go around to keep the nasty people happy.
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Old 12-02-2019, 01:08 PM
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It doesn't help that people drag morality into the mess, acting as if sick people were sick due to a failure on their part and if so they deserve whatever misery they get. I just wish the world at large was a little kinder and more forgiving, even if it was there'd still be plenty of misery to go around to keep the nasty people happy.
I think a lot of people desperately want to believe in some kind of just world hypothesis, because the idea that stuff happens randomly terrifies them, or at the very least, makes them profoundly uncomfortable.

I mean, it's easier for someone to rationalize that the homeless guy on the corner is there because of stuff he did (or didn't) do, instead of because of random chance and a lack of support system that caused him to end up where he is. Or that the rich guy is rich because he does everything right, and isn't that way because of luck and/or connections.

To segue into the OP; I think it would be useful to try and teach some basic cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in school somehow. At least the parts where you are aware of what you're thinking and can reflect on why, or whether it's even rational or reasonable. That sort of thing is HUGELY valuable to me when I get wound up or depressed, because it helps me put things in perspective instead of just careening up or down some particular mental pathway.
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