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Midlife Deaths of Despair Increased From 1999 to 2022

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Particularly large increases were seen for American Indian or Alaska Native and Black individuals

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 11, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Midlife deaths from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholic liver disease, collectively known as deaths of despair, increased from 1999 through 2022, according to a research letter published online April 10 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Joseph Friedman, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Helena Hansen, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted a cross-sectional study leveraging records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER database to calculate midlife mortality from deaths of despair in the United States from January 1999 to December 2022.

The researchers found that the total midlife mortality rate from these causes was 72.15 and 36.24 per 100,000 population among White and Black individuals, respectively. There was a sharp increase in deaths of despair among Black individuals after 2015. The death rate nearly tripled among Black individuals by 2022, increasing to 103.81 per 100,000, comparable to 102.63 per 100,000 among White people. From 1999 to 2022, the midlife mortality rate from deaths of despair was significantly higher among American Indian or Alaska Native individuals versus White individuals, with the rate 241.70 per 100,000 in 2022.

“Rising inequalities in deaths of despair among American Indian or Alaska Native and Black individuals were largely attributable to disproportionate early mortality from drug- and alcohol-related causes, which increased leading up to and during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write.

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