US Life Expectancy Declines in 2015: Unintentional Injuries Rise

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends most of her time in Asia researching a book about textile artisans. She also writes regularly about legal, political economy, and regulatory topics for various consulting clients and publications, as well as scribbles occasional travel pieces for The National.

Just in case daily news headlines haven’t already convinced you that all’s far from well in these United States, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) yesterday released a depressing set of statistics, Mortality in the United States, 2015. These show that for the first time in 23 years, overall life expectancy declined in the US in 2015, as compared to 2014, for total population, males, and females.

Overall life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population– comprising both males and females– declined from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 years in 2014 (as shown in Figure 1 below). For females, life expectancy dropped from 81.3 years in 2014 to 81.2 years in 2015, whereas for males, life expectancy decreased from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 years in 2015.

Figure 1. Life expectancy at selected ages, by sex: United States, 2014 and 2015


Notes: Life expectancies 2014 were revised using updated Medicare data; therefore, figures may differ from those previously published. Access data table for figure one.

SOURCE: NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality.

Ten Leading Causes of Death

From 2014 to 2015, the 10 leading causes of death– heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide– remained the same as in 2014 (as shown in Figure 3 below [Jerri-Lynn here: I have retained the original numbering for these figures]). More than 74% of all deaths in the United States in 2015 are due to these 10 leading causes.

From 2014 to 2015, death rates increased for 8 of 10 leading causes of death while declining for  only 1: cancer, decreasing by 1.7%. For influenza and pneumonia (a combined category), the  death rate remained essentially unchanged.

With respect to each of the eight others, the rate increased 0.9% for heart disease, 2.7% for chronic lower respiratory diseases, 6.7% for unintentional injuries, 3.0% for stroke, 15.7% for Alzheimer’s disease, 1.9% for diabetes, 1.5% for kidney disease, and 2.3% for suicide.

The Washington Post reports that the pop in the death rate for Alzheimer’s disease– up 15.7% from 2014 to 2015– may be largely due to improved reporting.

Figure 3. Age-adjusted death rates for the 10 leading causes of death in 2015: United States, 2014 and 2015

1 Statistically significant increase in age-adjusted death rate from 2014 to 2015 (p < 0.05).
2 Statistically significant decrease in age-adjusted death rate from 2014 to 2015 (p < 0.05).

NOTES: A total of 2,712,630 resident deaths were registered in the United States in 2015. The 10 leading causes accounted for 74.2% of all deaths in the United States in 2015. Causes of death are ranked according to number of deaths. Access data table for Figure 3.
SOURCE: NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality.

Unintentional Injuries: Opioids, Alcohol, Distracted Driving

Now, it’s been several years since I used to pore over the figures in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (which one of my neighbors, a specialist in treatment of HIV when such a diagnosis was almost inevitably fatal, received). So call me morbid but what jumps out at me here is the pronounced increase in unintentional injuries, from 40.5 per 100,000 of population in 2014 to 43.2 in 2015, a rate of increase of 6.7%, second only to that for Alzheimer’s disease.

As The Post reports:

A year ago, research by [Princeton economist Anne] Case and Angus Deaton, also an economist at Princeton, brought worldwide attention to the unexpected jump in mortality rates among white middle-aged Americans. That trend was blamed on what are sometimes called diseases of despair: overdoses, alcoholism and suicide. The new report raises the possibility that major illnesses may be eroding prospects for an even wider group of Americans.

Its findings show increases in “virtually every cause of death. It’s all ages,” said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. “There’s this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States.”

The headline of an article in the MIT Technology Review paints a stark and depressing picture, Business Big Pharma and Distracted Driving Are Killing Americans Early in quoting Jiaquan Xu, the principal author of the new report, who told Stat  that he’s particularly troubled by the rate of increase in unintentional deaths:

 “Motor vehicle accidents have gone up 6 percent,” he explains. “Accidental poisoning increased 13 percent. And 97 percent of accidental poisoning was from drug overdoses and alcohol,” he added, citing the opioid epidemic as a particular problem.

The Technology Review piece further backs up its vivid headline with this analysis:

Opioid abuse has become a serious public health issue in the U.S., with addiction to the drugs leading to greater risk of overdose. Precise figures for opioid-related deaths aren’t included in the report, but they accounted for 28,000 lost lives in 2014, and Xu clearly worries that an appreciable chunk of the rise in accidental poisoning may be attributed to them. While people are working to develop drugs that could end the problem, for now common opioids like Oxycontin are still being prescribed regularly.

Meanwhile, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently showed that 35,092 people died in crashes on U.S. roads during 2015, up from 32,744 in 2014. Accidents where distracted driving—the result of, say, texting on a cell phone or fiddling with the car stereo—was cited as a reason rose by 8.8 percent year-on-year. While autonomous cars may go some way to solving that in the long-term, experts have warned that semi-autonomous vehicles may yet cause the figures to rise in the near future (Links omitted; I direct interested readers to the main article for these.)

The statistics hint at an underlying level of increasing misery.  As is unsurprising in a publication so named, Technology Review looks to technology for solutions:

There’s a small glimmer of hope lurking in the report, though. Deaths due to cancer—the second-biggest cause of death in the U.S.—actually fell by 1.7 percent in 2015. That’s partly due to increasing awareness of the disease, but also thanks to tireless research efforts to create new therapies.

Hopefully causes of unintentional deaths will soon benefit from innovation, too.

I’m afraid I don’t share this optimism.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    The cynic in me thinks even the drop in cancer deaths may be misleading – many cancer patients don’t die of cancer they die from other causes, so it may be that, for example, a significant amount of drug deaths are due to cancer sufferers using opiates, etc., for self-medication.

    The rise in heart disease really jumps out at me. The experience in Europe has been a very significant drop in heart deaths due to better diet and treatment, and a generational effect (the WWII generation was more prone due to poor nutrition in early years). There is something drastically bad happening when cardiovascular disease is rising – this is usually associated with bad lifestyles and so it could be a simple reflection of increasing numbers of people in poverty.

    As for car accidents, the increase may be something of a blip, the figures are not far out from the norm for the 2000’s. The biggie seems to be toxins, and that is really a symptom of despair.

    1. Clive

      Sorry to duplicate your comment below, you beat me to it but your comment hadn’t made it through the cache before I posted mine. Great minds think alike, but I wish we didn’t have to be so — justifiedly — morbid in our ability to have an understanding of this fact set and read, correctly I think, between those grim lines.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, reporting rates of disease deaths are always dubious as definitions change all the time for a variety of reasons – medical, cultural, legal, etc. A friend of mine who is a doctor with a particular interest in forensics once told me that the majority of ascribed deaths are symptoms rather than causes of deaths – its often very hard he says to be sure in many cases and unless there is a suspicion of murder most ’causes of deaths’ are really just educated guesses by the doctors. .

        As you say below, a lot of ‘accident’ deaths may be suicides. But it can also be the case that deaths ascribed to heart attacks can be from other causes. Its not uncommon for ‘heart attack’ deaths to be cocaine overdoses, and I know personally of at least one case where someone who choked on vomit after a drinking binge was given ‘heart attack’ on the death certificate by a doctor wanting to spare the families feelings. There may also be other influences, such as insurance payouts having an influence. Many doctors will not want to put a family through the stress of losing insurance claims if they suspect a death was not entirely natural. Its easier to put ‘cardiovascular’ as a reason for death rather than ‘booze, opiates, cocaine’.

        So in general I wouldn’t put too much reliance on the stated causes. In the absence of other reasonable explanations I think this is clearly an outcome from increasing poverty and hopelessness.

  2. Clive

    In England, many coroners are reluctant in marginal cases to make a determination of suicide and will substitute a verdic of death by misadventure or accidental death to spare, understandably, grieving relatives’ feelings. Am not sure if the same phenomena is as widely present with U.S. M.E.’s but it must go on. It seems unlikely that people have all of a sudden got a whole lot more careless in their driving or inept at managing their medication.

    Of course, even the “official” suicide rate has ticked up as per Figure 3 in the above feature.

    Plus of course there’ll be a fair few cases where heart disease and cancer deaths were due to an underlying substance abuse issue.

    A sick society, indeed.

    1. rd

      There have been a number of major crash investigations in our area where the forensics clearly showed the driver was using their cell phone at the time of the accident. Starting with widespread cellphone availability and texting in the mid-2000s, distracted driving has become a huge hazard. In our area, we have few sidewalks. When walking on the road, I always walk against traffic and look at the driver’s face – you would be surprised how often they are looking down and not at you. It is the same when I am driving, I pay attention to the position of the driver’s head in the car in front of me and on my sides (more difficult to do with the car behind me) as well as whether or not they are weaving across lines or shoulder, even at 8 am.

      I treat every driver on the road as the equivalent of a drunk driver because distracted driving is about equivalent in hazard.

      1. reslez

        This is a side effect of social media platforms which are explicitly designed to inspire addictive behavior. Apps are designed to be attention-needy; their users require a regular ‘fix’ at multiple points throughout the day.

        1. Arizona Slim

          I’m gradually weaning myself from Facebook. It’s taking some time.

          The good news: I’ve already done this with LinkedIn and Twitter. I hardly go to either of those sites.

          My 2017 New Year’s Resolution: To spend more time in social reality and less time on social media.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            How about a national Social Media Free Day?

            Or a national Social Media Free Week?

            Kids take a week off to educate themselves that there can be life without social media?

          2. Carla

            @Arizona Slim re: “social reality.”

            You made me think of this quote:

            “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” —

            John Lennon


    2. Adam1

      My mother once commented to me that she had a cousin who suffered from depression for years, yet when his truck mysteriously drove off a bridge killing him it was considered an accident. In her mind it was likely suicide. And oddly story wise, while driving in to work today the guys on the local radio show were discussing the death of some poor sap from a heroin overdose. The crazy part was he had been save TWO prior times in the same day by Narcan. Was it really overdose or was he determined to go out on one last high?

      1. Knifecatcher

        My grandfather was a bear of a man. Worked law enforcement, security, anything involving being generally big, tough, and intimidating. The only thing that scared him was the idea of not being able to take care of himself.

        He died a day before he was scheduled to go in for surgery for a shoulder problem. We knew he was dreading the recovery, being dependent on other people, not sure when he was going to be able to go back to work. Official cause was a fatal opioid / booze cocktail, but we all knew.

  3. Matthew Saroff

    In terms of Opioid deaths, note that the increase has been driven by pharma aggressively pushing Oxycontin and its ilk while downplaying the risks.

    Not only have the regulatory bodies ignored this, they have actively supported this by evergreening exclusivity on a lot of those drugs.

    1. joey

      Opioid deaths have also been unintentionally driven by the success of MADD. There is an unfortunate trend for those in their late 20s and early 30s to have developed opioid addictions not from prescribed agents but from illegally procured pills used recreationally. I initially found that shocking because ‘when I was their age’ not that many years prior, it was beer and wine coolers >>> marijuana >>> hallucinogens. Never saw pill popping and I made my way around some party scenes in high school and college. Then I remembered that beer was harder and harder to get as I closed in on my 21st birthday due to some lobbying efforts that preceded Oxycontin’s arrival by about a decade.

  4. Eduardo Quince

    It seems unlikely that people have all of a sudden got a whole lot more careless in their driving

    Smartphones could plausibly account for the increase. Driving while texting/checking phone is widespread in the US.

    1. jrs

      I wonder if driving on marijuana can account for any. Oh I voted for legalization mind you. But yea overall I’d have to say cell phones and texting has to be a larger threat.

  5. cocomaan

    If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common sense gun safety laws.

    When looking at Obama’s term and the declining health of the American people, it’s revealing and absurd that his greatest hangup was not passing gun control. You’d think the absolute failure of the drug war, as evidenced by the awfulness of the heroin epidemic, would be front and center.

    1. different clue

      If we are prepared to face up to what the real agenda of the drug war is, we will be able to face up to how totally and completely successful the drug war has been.

      The drug war is a jobs program for law enforcement.
      The drug war is meant to keep the prisondustrial complex full of prisoners with their lucrative taxpayer-funded dowries year after year.
      The drug was is meant to keep the illegal drugs just shortaged enough to keep their price profitably high in order to maintain the drug cartels that the narco-intelligence complexes of the world wish to keep maintained. It is also meant to keep the prices high enough to keep raising billions of dollars for the cartels which the cartels launder through the worlds’ Money Center Banks. So the war on drugs is also designed to protect revenue streams for the Money Center drug-money laundries.

      Viewed that way, the drug war is not a failure. It is a success. The only failure is if it gets stopped.
      That is why the drug warriors are so committed to keeping up their War on a Peace with Drugs.

  6. Lord Koos

    The over-prescribing of Oxycontin etc has been reined in somewhat, so that now the problem has become heroin. Addicts who formerly used the pharmaceutical stuff have been forced make the switch to street drugs, where strength and purity are unknown, leading to many overdoses.

    1. cocomaan

      The fact that 90% of heroin originates in Afghanistan, a country occupied by the US military for fifteen plus years, should be giving everyone pause. There’s a public health disaster and an ongoing military intervention in an ethnic dispute and they’re connected, but I’ve seen little investigation into it by the media.

      1. Altandmain

        Heroin production is projected to rise by over 40% this year in Afghanistan.,-expert-warns/7960588

        Actually, cracking down on heroin seems to be counterproductive:

        It just alienates the local population and increases the support for the Taliban.

        The answer is that the only way to address the problem is on the demand side. Economic despair and people looking for relief from the hopelessness of life are the demand.

        At this point, I’m in favor of legalization. Regulate and tax like tobacco products. It’s not a perfect solution, and like tobacco, opioid drugs are very addictive with very negative health impacts, but it beats the alternative.

        In South and Central America, it is also fueling the rise of drug gangs and drug wars. Finally it is making the private prison industry very wealthy. Sadly they no doubt give money to sympathetic politicians.

        So much fail …

        1. GregL

          Problem is they’ll overtax and make it more expensive than street. The four THC caps (40 mg) I take to get to sleep and help with neuropathic pain runs around $4K a year in Washington, greedy bastards.

          1. MtnLife

            Have you tried Kratom and/or agmatine? I use both of those in addition to cannabis for pain regulation. Both are much cheaper and agmatine potentiates both. Red Borneo Kratom puts me out like a light while I use white veined Kratom varieties for waking hours. I also found taking shilajit (the expensive paste kind, not the weak powders) before bed improved sleep quality.

        2. different clue

          So much success . . . if you run drugs or run a drug money laundry . . . or if you have a job till retirement arresting/ trying/ incarcerating drug users.

          So much success all around . . . but only for All The Right People.

      2. rd

        Opium is Afghanistan’s number one cash crop just like marijuana is Kentucky’s number one agricultural product. It is quite dangerous to walk around the woods in some areas of Kentucky and some other states because the locals may think you are looking to score on their product.

  7. Jim Haygood

    Meanwhile 0bama’s DEA chose to keep cannabis classified as Schedule I (“worst of the worst”), despite some evidence that medical cannabis may reduce opioid abuse.

    Likewise, decriminalizing other Schedule I substances such as ibogaine, LSD and psilocybin, which have shown some some early promise in treating alcoholism, is not even under discussion.

    Schedule I is defined as “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.” These are flat-out lies in regard to cannabis and the others as well, at least in a therapeutic setting. The human cost of our medievalist drug war is staggeringly high.

    1. cocomaan

      My problem with Schedule 1: there’s probably not a substance on earth that doesn’t have some medical use. You just never know when you’ll need a compound or a substance.

      Following from that, the idea that you could restrict access to a substance and keep it out of the realm of research because there’s no currently accepted use, is completely insane.

      Let a doctor, not an administrator, figure out what is and isn’t medically accepted. There’s whole Compassionate Use provisions under FDA rules that work plenty well.

      1. jrs

        The drug schedules are completely insane, see where extremely addictive drugs like opiates and benzos are – way down there, nowhere near Schedule 1. True like marijuana they also have medical uses, but they are also so much more addictive than marijuana or kratom (which also has medical uses for pain).

        1. Jason Boxman

          I don’t know about habit forming, but benzos are definitely tolerance building and nasty to get off of. They don’t tell you that when you fill the script.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Indeed– I knew you would like that Lambert. ‘Twas my reason for including that quote.

    2. flora

      This isn’t a snark exactly, but I can’t help noticing the Obamacare timeline in relation to the 2014-15 dates.
      What “Innovation” are “they” now proposing? Even higher ins premiums and larger fines?

      More seriously, increased stress levels increase health problems according to Mayo Clinic.

      Anyone think the economic stress levels have been going down for most Americans for the past 8 or 9 years?

    3. Altandmain

      Innovation? That’s propaganda for you right there.

      How about stopping the class warfare, giving the US a universal healthcare system like the rest of the world, and then ending the pointless wars abroad (military spending is extremely expensive)?

      The answer is that the economic desperation is responsible for this current situation. There’s a reason why Trump won and it is because he promised jobs. Now whether he delivers or sells out is another matter (i expect him to sell out), but the point is that Americans are getting desperate.

      This is like Goebbels levels of spin we are seeing. While advances in medical science are very welcome and we should be spending more on them as a society, there is no miracle for despair.

  8. reslez

    Morbidity spiked in Russia too after the fall of the Soviet Union. Economic malaise, mass unemployment and suddenly adult middle aged males were all drinking themselves to death. It reminds me of Dmitri Orlov’s work who predicted the same would happen in the US, only it would be worse here because of high indebtedness and lack of public infrastructure.

    From 1999: “Life expectancy of Russian men falls to 58”,

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      When a nation is defeated, militarily or economically, externally by unfair trading partners and/or by a richer class internally, this is what happens.

    2. Arizona Slim

      One of my friends is from Russia. He was a child when his family left, oh, during the 1990s.

      He’s one of the most health-conscious people I know. A body builder who doesn’t drink or do drugs. He’s been teaching me the very basics of strength training, and I appreciate his encouragement.

  9. oho

    throw out ‘suicide’ in many cases voids any life insurance. if I was a medical examiner, i’d be sparing in throwing out suicide unless it was obviously indisputable.

    1. lyle

      Typically that only applies during the first few years of a policy (two or more). The idea is to ensure that you don’t buy the policy and then commit suicide. But after a number of years they figure that you did not buy the policy for the purpose of suicide.

  10. Carla

    Sigh. I’m getting the impression that using quotation marks in a comment (which should be a good thing) triggers moderation.

  11. George Phillies

    Heart attack? Perhaps I am just noticing more, but it seems to me that the incidence of persons with truly absurd levels of obesity has increased a great deal.

    1. RUKidding

      My thoughts, too. I work part time in the weight loss field. There’s no doubt that humans are putting on weight at alarming rates, and it’s not even limited to the USA and other “developed” nations anymore. I traveled through three countries in SE Asia, plus India, and I was pretty surprised at the number of overweight people there. Not as much as here but more than expected. Everyone is eating more and moving less. The number of people who appear to be in their 40s and 50s who appear confined to motorized chairs is pretty sobering. Used to be, people using scooter chairs (or whatever they’re called) was mostly limited to more elderly people. Not so much anymore.

      And yes, the heavier you are, the more you are prone not just to cardio-vascular disease, but also to a range of diseases, including cancer and diabetes. It’s really another heath care crisis.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Should you return to see this, WSJ has an item by Gary Taubes today on the dangers of sugar.

        Yeah, I avoid the WSJ, but for Taubes, I’m willing to click ;-)

        I was not the only one at my Election Night event who looked at the map of ‘red’ states and thought, “WTF — that sure maps onto US health stats for diabetes and smoking. And not in a good way!”

        1. RUKidding

          Thanks for the link. WSJ sometimes has good stuff. My employer follows science in recommending weight loss practices. We really super encourage people to cut back sugar as much as possible & to keep consumption of grains on the down low. Whole grains are good but only in small doses. Really important to push yourself to do this. I have a sweet tooth but really work at not eating sweets. This also means limiting alcohol which quickly turns to sugar during digestion.

      2. zapster

        Glyphosate, BHA, various other preservatives, antibiotics in the meat, and endocrine disruptors. Tough to keep weight off in the American environment.

  12. KurtisMayfield

    Big jump in Alzheimer’s as well.. that is the only thing that is not surprising considering the boomers getting older.

    Linked is a study done comparing income and education levels to overall morbidity:

    2014 study

    You have to download the .PDF linked in the article to get to the neat of it.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Alzheimer’s is now being described as Type III Diabetes.
      There are some extremely interesting, if depressing, reasons for it – all involving how the brain metabolizes sugars.
      Fundamentally, diabetes is in many respects vascular; hence, the link to Alzheimers. At least, that’s what some very smart people are telling me.

      1. RUKidding

        Interesting. Thanks. Hadn’t heard that but knew research was happening to investigate links between diabetes & Alzheimers. Will have to watch out for more info on this.

  13. Karl Kolchack

    I survived advanced Stage 3 pancreatic cancer because of the recent advances in cancer treatments, but now have to regularly take OxyContin in order to combat the debilitating neuropathy that was the result of the chemotherapy that saved my life. Opiods may be deadly if misused, but if used properly they are by far the best pain relievers available. My life would be a living hell without them.

    1. RUKidding

      I’ve heard that from others in situations similar to yours. It’s great that Oxycontin helps you. I think an issue is that too many doctors are over-prescribing for much less painful/diffucult/whatever medical conditions, and people who don’t need it ongoingly get addicted. I’m thinking of two specific people I know in this situation.

      One person, in particular, has had a couple of joints (shoulder, knee) replaced but pretty much refused to do physical therapy after the surgery. This to me is sheer madness and unsurprisingly, this person is now addicted to Oxy. Seems to me that the doc involved could have said something like: well you don’t get any more pain pills until you go through at least one course of PT.

      Our health care system has forced doctors to see too many patients per day, and they’re not given the opportunity to really work with patients and review what they’re doing on a longer term basis. In too many cases, it’s all about pushing pills and pushing the patient out the door.

      But wishing you well and glad to hear it’s beneficial sometimes.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Our health care system has forced doctors to see too many patients per day, and they’re not given the opportunity to really work with patients and review what they’re doing on a longer term basis. In too many cases, it’s all about pushing pills and pushing the patient out the door.

        I can’t begin to tell you how much I am hearing this now. And not only do docs have to see all those patients day in, day out; every single time they walk into an exam room, they are at risk of being sued later. The docs that I hear talking are incredibly frustrated, and actively working on developing new health care models, because they did not toil through med school just to be ‘pill pushers’.

        The pressure on docs to see too many patients is one of the silent, ominously dangerous, things about medicine in the US today. (This is one reason that where I live, many people – including Yours Truly – also see naturopaths, who have more time to help with lifestyle, sleep, and longer term health habits. This is also why some systems are putting much more focus on Physicians Assistants, as well as Nurse Practitioners.)

        This problem of doctors having to see 4 or 5 patients an hour, plus long hours, plus often hospital rotations and weekend rotations, is a big problem that has not been discussed in all the brouhaha about health care. I’m hearing that this kind of pressure is burning out doctors — particularly primary care docs, who are the entry point for most patients.

  14. marblex

    Well I for one, am shocked. At my lack of surprise. What the hell else do you expect when you impoverish half your population?


  15. Norman G Caplan

    Almost all the major causes of death in your list are frequently complications of diabetes. The exceptions are cancer and Alzheimer’s, but future research may discover a link between diabetes and those diseases as well. Even depression, which can lead to suicide, is a complication with which many diabetics have to deal, for physiological as well as psychological reasons. A doctor with over four decades of specializing in diabetes once told that all diabetics are depressed. Likewise diabetes could lead to unintentional injuries since either high or low blood sugar conditions can quickly impair brain functions.

    1. RUKidding

      There have been studies that have suggested (but I’m not sure if it’s confirmed) links between diabetes and Alzheimers. I really feel that my dad, who did not have diabetes, had Alzheimers at least partly due to his very very unhealthy diet. He really subsisted on sweets and sugary snacks, and it’s a wonder he didn’t have diabetes, as the rest of his birth family did. His sister, who had diabetes, succumbed to Alzheimer’s earlier than my dad and was much more “out of it” for several years before she died. Despite having diabetes, my Aunt also had a horrible, high sugar/high carb diet.

      I used to know someone who did serious Alz research (at a major research univ). She couldn’t say absolutely, but she also felt that there was a link between diabetes and Alzheimers. It’s anecdotal, but I suspect diet can often play a role for the better or for the worse.

      1. aab

        Wasn’t sure where to put this. I don’t think it’s been covered here previously:

        I also used to know a top Alz researcher, who then died of cancer himself. My impression is that what causes dementia (other than simply getting really old so your neural networks break and wear down) is still not well-understood. My MIL had very severe dementia. She was thin, ate carefully, exercised regularly, graduated from an Ivy League school back when women didn’t, etc. She doesn’t fit any of the assumptions about what causes dementia. I used to nag her to stop eating hydrogenated margarine and switch to butter and olive oil, but she wouldn’t. I strongly suspect that her restricted diet with limited meat and what I consider healthy saturated fat is why she is the only person in her family to get dementia — including her mother, who lived into her late 90s, and was sharp as a tack all the way. I can’t prove this, of course. But hydrogenated fat consumption has gone down, I believe. I wonder if anybody is tracking the correlation here.

        1. RUKidding

          Interesting. Thanks. Your mother’s diet could definitely have had an impact on her decline. I agree w you about the judicious use of butter & olive oil.

    2. LAS

      There are connections between obesity and both cancer and diabetes type 2. Thus cancer and diabetes may have a common cause.

  16. DarkMatters

    In an article about Mark Ames, the author quoted him speaking about Russia:
    “Everything was about free markets and capitalism and democracy, and it was all leading us to some great new future, but all you had to do was look around in the streets and see there was something f******g wrong with it,” Ames says. “We were in the middle of total devastation, one of the worst, most horrible f*****g tragedies of modern times.”
    It’s coming home to roost in the West, and everyone is not only taking notice, but also feeling the brunt of its impact.

    1. Mark P.

      I suspect that some of the crowd who learned during the 1990s how supremely profitable looting a large state could be in the territories of the former USSR, then returned and applied those lessons back in the U.S.A.

      Andrei Shleifer, Larry Summers’ buddy and Harvard-based economist, for one. Others, too

  17. gardener1

    I’m staggered that suicide is in the top ten causes of death.

    I wonder how they calculated that? Where do the suicide numbers come from? The health care industry? Law enforcement?

    Americans are not only ill of the body but ailing of the soul on a national scale. That’s stunning.

  18. kareninca

    I have an acquaintance who died a few days ago of a drug overdose. A middle aged (late 50s) white woman who owned a house in Palo Alto (bought decades ago, probably mortgaged to the hilt). She had been a bus driver and was in an accident and given pain meds. The meds stopped working pretty quickly (as they often do), so she tried to boost their effect with alcohol. Her brother found her dead in bed. It is possible that it was partly intentional (she was having legal problems), but I am guessing it was just the extremely strong pharma drugs, plus alcohol. I guess this is a cheap way for society to shed itself of boomers; give them monster pharma pain meds. Anway, what a waste.

  19. VietnamVet

    Drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide are illnesses of despair.

    It is not coincidence that the last similar increase in the death rate in a developed county was when the Soviet Union collapsed. Middle America was thrown under the bus by the neo-liberal-con coup. There is no indication that there will be a significant change due to the 2016 election. After Donald Trump’s intervention, 800 jobs will be lost with Carrier’s move of their air conditioner production to Mexico not a 1,000. This is still government by and for oligarchs not the people. There is absolutely no indication of any intent to increase economic demand by placing people to work to alleviate the effects of climate change.

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