Suicide in the prime:
All is not well in the U. S. of A.  People commit suicide.  That’s been happening for as long as I know.  And white Americans are doing so in the absolute prime of life, between 45 and 54.  Yes, if you had asked me I’d have said I expected as much.  But there is a new article:

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century Anne Case1 and Angus Deaton1 Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Department of Economics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 Contributed by Angus Deaton, September 17, 2015 (sent for review August 22, 2015; reviewed by David Cutler, Jon Skinner, and David Weir)
PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print November 2, 2015, doi:10.1073/pnas.1518393112
Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences

Deaths due to suicide, alcohol and drug overdose are rising and have risen in that group so substantially that their overall death rate is rising; it’s worse among the less educated.  Everybody else in the country, and that particular group in other rich countries, all have stable or falling death rates.  At the same time, complaints such as declining health, difficulty with daily life chores, inability to work, chronic pain and deteriorating liver function are on the rise.  This is a very unhappy group.  Had the death rate continued to fall after the 1990’s as it had been falling before, a half million deaths would have been averted.

Of course that half million is the tip of the iceberg.  A degree of unnecessary distress is probably far more widespread that what can be caught in the statistics, carefully though they have been evaluated. 

The use of prescription pain medications as tracked upward right along with suicide and reported pain.  The question is raised whether this is part of the cause.  I think not.  I have had my dose of chronic pain this year, and although I now find that the people I deal with in getting it treated are mostly quite reasonable, the law seems to have been crafted by person or persons who are stark raving mad.  At one point, through nobody’s fault but that of the law, I went four days without treatment.  Suppose I were a different person in different circumstances lying on the couch suffering.  The whole family would know it.  Then on day three my fourteen year old comes home, puts his fist into the hand and says, “Here are your pills, Mom.”  He now knows, as he might not have known, how to access the black market, and he has lost absolutely all respect for laws governing drugs.  Nice work, politicos.  This was all supposed to reduce drug abuse? 

If I had the same symptoms in Sweden, I assure you they would not have gone untreated.  If I went into a doctor’s office in Sudan with the kind of money I spend on health insurance and medications, I promise you I’d get what I needed.  We not only have the most expensive health care system in the world.  We have the worst.  Sorry.  Anyway, all the pain meds we use are available in other industrialized countries.  The decline in deaths in those countries has gone right on falling even as our own, among that race and age group, has turned right around and soared.  It isn’t a matter of the pills.

The possibility of an economic cause is strong; indeed I think it is the strongest possibility that they consider.

Occasionally I wail that the low birth rate in Eastern Europe has produced villages where:
There are no children.
The young women go off to the cities to peddle their good looks.
The old people commit suicide.
The young men drink and occasionally find work tearing down houses that nobody is going to live in.

Well it looks like it’s here.  But that still doesn’t explain why we are so different from our economic peers. 

Not so long ago I suggested that the media gratuitously punish black men by screaming at them that if they do not marry white women they are failures.  I wonder if there are a fraction of white men who react, “Given what I have accomplished, if I were black I’d have no trouble at all finding a woman.” 

It’s all so sad.  Often I think if we married cousins the way nature insists we should, it would be a happier world.  I dread the great probablilty that I am right.  I dread more being right and continuing to be ignored.  But the Duke of Wellington is said to have remarked after the battle of Waterloo, “Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”  And what will the suicide rate do when the word finally gets out, as it must one day, and so many sweet and well intentioned people realize what they have done? 

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