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mazingerz88's avatar

What are common sense ideas and policies the goverment can adapt to decrease the number of "deaths of despair" in the US?

Asked by mazingerz88 (27269points) March 8th, 2020

And not just the goverment. What can all Americans do as a people to address these deaths?

If you feel that the goverment should do something instead of simply ignoring “deaths of despair” American casualties, how do you think it should act? What policies and which politicians would you support?

Without getting too partisan, what rational common sense ideas ( economic, social and cultural ) have a real chance of being adapted as policies or even passed into law? Real solutions that both the American people and politicians they support can come up with?

Here is the NYT Times article about deaths of despair in the US. It also mentions some potential solutions.


How Working-Class Life Is Killing Americans, in Charts
By David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson
MARCH 6, 2020

When the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton first published their research on “deaths of despair” five years ago, they focused on middle-aged whites. So many white working-class Americans in their 40s and 50s were dying of suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse that the overall mortality rate for the age group was no longer falling – a rare and shocking pattern in a modern society.

But as Case and Deaton continued digging into the data, it became clear that the grim trends didn’t apply only to middle-aged whites. Up and down the age spectrum, deaths of despair have been surging for people without a four-year college degree:

In the early 1990s, the number of white adults without a college education who were dying from a drug overdose, alcoholism or suicide was fairly low — and the death rates for younger adults were lower than for older adults.

But over the past three decades, deaths of despair among whites without a college degree — especially those under age 50 — have soared.

The death rate for whites with a college degree, by contrast, has risen only modestly across all age groups and remains lower for the young than the old.

Case and Deaton — a married couple who are both economists at Princeton — try to explain the causes in a new book, “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.” Their basic answer is that working-class life in the United States is more difficult than it is in any other high-income country.

“European countries have faced the same kind of technological change we have, and they’re not seeing the people killing themselves with guns or drugs or alcohol,” Case says. “There is something unique about the way the U.S. is handling this.”

Inequality has risen more in the United States — and middle-class incomes have stagnated more severely — than in France, Germany, Japan or elsewhere. Large corporations have increased their market share, and labor unions have shriveled, leaving workers with little bargaining power. Outsourcing has become the norm, which means that executives often see low-wage workers not as colleagues but as expenses.

And the United States suffers from by far the world’s most expensive health-care system. It acts as a tax on workers and drains resources that could otherwise be spent on schools, day care, roads, public transit and more. Despite its unparalleled spending, the American medical system also fails to keep many people healthy.

The two economists initially focused on non-Hispanic whites because the mortality trends were worst for them. Deaths rates from suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse among whites surpassed the rates for blacks shortly after 2000, for example.

But the black working class is hardly thriving—and deaths of despair have surged among them in the last few years. Overall life expectancy remains significantly higher for whites than blacks. So, of course, do incomes and wealth.

Many of the problems afflicting the working class span racial groups, and Case and Deaton emphasize that these problems aren’t merely financial.

Life for many middle- and low-income Americans can lack structure, status and meaning. People don’t always know what days or hours they will be working the following week. They often don’t officially work for the company where they spend their days, which robs them of the pride that comes from being part of a shared enterprise.

“Many people used to associate the meaning of their life with what their corporation or institution was doing,” says Deaton, a Nobel laureate in economics. Miners and factory workers identified themselves as such. Warehouse workers, especially those whose paycheck is signed by a staffing company, rarely feel the same connection.

The result of these trends has been a “coming apart,” as Case and Deaton put it, of day-to-day life for whites without a college degree versus those with a college degree.

Surveys show that a growing number of working-class Americans find it difficult to do basic things, like climb a flight of stairs or socialize, partly because of chronic problems with their mental or physical health. Chronic pain is more widespread. Share of non-Hispanic whites aged 45–54 experiencing neck, back or joint pain.

Given all of these alarming social indicators, it’s not surprising that some other causes of death — in addition to suicide, alcoholism and drug overdose — have also started rising for Americans without a college degree. Heart disease is the most significant, exacerbated by obesity, drinking and drug use.

The combined result is a divergence in the life expectancy of white college graduates and non-graduates. Overall mortality for whites between the ages of 45 and 54 has held roughly steady in the last 25 years. But that average hides a big increase in death rates for non-graduates and a big decline for graduates.

What can be done about all of this?

Many of the solutions are obvious, if difficult to accomplish. The medical system should be overhauled to put a higher priority on health than on wealth for people who work in the industry, Case and Deaton argue. (And that doesn’t necessarily mean a mandatory version of Medicare, they add.)

The federal government should do a better job of keeping big business from maximizing profits at the expense of their workers, by enforcing antitrust laws and encouraging new kinds of labor unions. Governments at all levels should help more people earn college degrees, both four-year degrees (like B.A.’s) and meaningful vocational degrees.

Other economic research has found that a college degree isn’t simply a marker. Students who attend and graduate from college do better in life than otherwise similar students who didn’t get the same opportunities.

Graduates are more likely to be employed, earn more, marry and stay married, be satisfied with their lives, be healthy and live longer. These findings suggest that college itself — both the classroom learning and the experience of successfully navigating college — brings long-term benefits.

The focus of Case and Deaton’s book isn’t education, but it lingers as the backdrop to all of their findings. “This B.A./non-B.A. divide,” Deaton says, “just comes up again and again and again.”

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10 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Mental health days similar to vacation days. Crisis time, like if you are at breaking point and need to go home for the day without penalty. Counseling or therapy paid 100% with insurance. Mandatory raises across the board to give pepple a guarantee of a better life thru perseverance.
I do notice some of these are in my peer groups. Seems to me it’s more attitude in general rather than education level.

Zaku's avatar

Universal health care, including mental health.

kritiper's avatar

There is nothing they can do. In my opinion, “deaths of despair” are a logical, sane thing and cannot be made less logical, less sane.

ragingloli's avatar

Let the magical free market handle it!
Happy Pills and mind-altering brain implants, all advertised openly on every TV and Radio channel to adults, the elderly and children alike!
Call your representative NOW to urge them to legalise it as soon as possible, and eliminate any regulatory barriers to YOUR happiness!
I’d buy that for a dollar!

JLeslie's avatar

We can make life less of a roller coaster.

Healthcare for all would be a great start. As far as mental health care, we definitely need to improve that in America, but I would hope if we can fix underlying causes of despair, we won’t need as much mental health care for depression and despair.

We need more urban planning and safe neighborhoods at reasonable prices. People (especially men) who struggle to support their families are at grave risk. Job loss, big losses in their savings, these things can throw a breadwinner into a serious depression. Where I live is a mix of capitalism and what I call socialism, but it’s not a government, it’s a family, the developer, that has created what we have here. Tons of volunteering so so much is free, reasonably priced housing (although it’s going up, I hope that doesn’t get screwed up) and it’s organized in a way that people easily socialize with each other and find their niche.

Psychiatry knows that having a social support system helps people deal with, and come through depression. All my friends have a ton of of activities to look forward to in their calendars daily. Most people here are retired and on Medicare, but plenty of people still do work part time and full time.

The developer makes a fortune! If the government planned communities like this the government could easily break even, or even just be the organizer, and supply wonderful cooperative communities for all ages, but especially for retirees it works well. Private companies can build houses, pave streets, it can be done as a cooperative effort of government and private business. I’m just thinking I want to invite Bill Gates here, maybe he would do it in other places in America.

$200k house are near $800k houses and we all have fun together.

Loneliness can be a part of despair. Having communities set up to encourage interaction can really help.

The American family is more broken apart than years past. We move more, grandmas and moms are working. More stress on couples and one single parents. I wish we could slow down a little, but there is pressure for America to compete in the world, for our children to compete. I think we should look to Finland. Their children are successful in school, and start at age 6 or 7, and are encouraged to be creative.

Edit: I guess my common sense quick answer to do something right away is hire someone good community organizers a maybe some cruise directors to get the ball rolling in existing communities.

JLeslie's avatar

Also, stop going to war. We harm our people physically and mentally putting them through combat situations. Some people can handle it well, but so many are affected, and it affects their families too.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Free university. More good food. Clean drinking water.

kritiper's avatar

@JLeslie Try to get everyone on the planet to go along with that.

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper The war statement? I wish I could.

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