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Native and white Americans dying prematurely, study shows
Posted in Health, Research, Substance Abuse - 0 Comments

A study by the National Cancer Institute published in The Lancet finds that white and Native Americans are dying prematurely and suicides and drug overdoses are partially to blame.

Not since AIDS

The study was conducted by the Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. Meredith Shiels is an investigator for the Division and one of the lead authors of the study. She told CNN, “The last time we saw increases like this was during the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s.” What Shiels is referring to is the surge in mortality rates between 1999 and 2014. Over that span, among whites, Native Americans and Alaska Natives ages 25 to 30, death rates increased as high as 5 percent.

By contrast, death rates among African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics ages 25 to 64, decreased significantly.

A national problem

Fatal drug overdoses are categorized as accidental deaths. Overdose deaths for women increased in all 50 states; for men, 48 states recorded increases. West Virginia led all states in the category of premature deaths from all causes. Notes Dave Thomas of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “… the numbers [for whites] are being dragged down … by prescription and opioid overdoses.”

What troubles Thomas, who co-authored the study, is that specialists don’t fully understand why the opioid epidemic has caught fire, particularly among whites. “I don’t think we have a complete understanding of why it’s happening that way,” he says. “It’s a crisis. There’s not just one simple answer.”

A drop in lifespan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a mammoth report on the health of the United States as it stood in 2015. Contained in that report was the fact that life expectancy for the average American dropped. The report notes that this was the first time life expectancy dipped since 1993.

It is important to note that fatal drug overdoses are not solely responsible for this drop in lifespan. Child, juvenile and adult diabetes have soared in the U.S. in recent years. The CDC report notes that there are numerous reasons for this spike: lack of exercise among all age groups, weight issues (Americans are getting fatter) and the consumption of fast food and sodas. Of course, the CDC is quick to acknowledge that drug overdoses claim more young lives than do automobile accidents. This, too, marks a recent development.

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About the author

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health. He worked over two years as a reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

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