Deaths of Despair? Maybe It’s Heart Disease Instead.

It feels like no one is interested in any news that’s not coronavirus related right now, but here’s a bit of it anyway. A team of researchers has been digging into the life expectancy numbers for the United States to test the theory that we’re seeing more “deaths of despair”—i.e., deaths due to suicide, drug overdoses, and alcoholism. What they found is that since 2010, when US life expectancy suddenly flattened out, the real culprit is cardiovascular deaths:

For both men and women, they found that if they assumed fewer drug-related deaths the life expectancy numbers barely moved (green lines). However, if they assumed that cardiovascular deaths were still declining as much as they used to, the life expectancy numbers went up by more than a full year (red lines). That turns out to be the real problem: we stopped making much progress against heart disease while other countries have continued to see cardivascular deaths decline significantly:

This is by no means the end of the story. I suspect that over the next few years we’re going to see a lot of studies of life expectancy in an effort to figure out why the US has deviated so strikingly from other rich countries. The “deaths of despair” hypothesis is one explanation, though it gets kind of complicated when you take a deep dive into precisely who’s dying more these days. Now cardiovascular disease is another hypothesis. Somehow I have a feeling that it might be quite a while before the numbers are all crunched finely enough that we finally reach a consensus about what’s really going on.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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