Observations Yankee Doodling

An unexpected headline: more US white people are dying

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6180 (Published 17 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6180
  1. Douglas Kamerow, senior scholar, Robert Graham Center for policy studies in primary care, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University, and associate editor, The BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}aafp.org

Middle aged white people’s death rates rise, while those of black and Hispanic people fall, new study finds

As recently as late October it seemed that all was well in public health in the United States, at least as far as mortality rates go. JAMA had just published a review of mortality data based on death certificates,1 showing that overall US mortality rates decreased 43% from 1969 to 2013. Most of the leading causes of death in that analysis had declining rates: heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injuries, and diabetes.

So it came as quite a jolt to pick up the newspapers on 3 November and see front page headlines such as “Death rates rise among whites in middle age.”2 3 It turns out that there may be an unexpected exception to the blissfully falling mortality rates: white men and women aged 45-54.

Until now analyses always found that it was racial and ethnic minorities that got less healthcare and died sooner. This new analysis shocked the public health world, and perhaps the public as well, with its startling finding: mortality rates had actually been increasing among middle aged white people since …

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