U.S. Black-White Mortality Trends Complicate the White “Deaths of Despair” Narrative

Andrea Tilstra , University of Colorado Boulder
Daniel Simon, University of Colorado Boulder
Ryan K. Masters, University of Colorado Boulder

We explore recent trends in cause-specific mortality for white and black men and women, for ages 20-59, and across the years 1990-2015. We use age-standardized mortality rates and Age-Period-Cohort models to estimate trends in “deaths of despair” – suicide, alcohol- and drug-related mortality – and metabolic-related mortality. Our results show that the recent increases in mortality among white populations are also observed in the black population. Moreover, we find period-based increases in drug-related mortality for both whites and blacks beginning in the late 1990s. We also show that metabolic-related mortality has increased for both whites and blacks, beginning with cohorts born in the 1950s. Taken together, this study demonstrates that drug-related mortality is a US epidemic, not simply a middle-aged white American problem. The results presented here also shed additional light on the importance of a renewed focus on metabolic-related diseases, and the persistent health inequalities across race.

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 Presented in Session 22. Deaths and Diseases of Despair