Life Expectancies Shrink for Some White Americans

White women without a high school diploma lost five years of life expectancy between 1990 and 2008 and their male counterparts lost three, the NYT reports:

EarthResearchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

Experts are vexed by the decline:

“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” said John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who was not involved in the new study.

The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London.


  1. ratbastard says

    Silly. There could be MANY reasons and causes for a shortened overall life expectancy among those without a H.S. degree ranging from locations where they live, lack of access to heathcare [especially ‘down south’ where the states are less generous with Medicaid, and which are very rural in character, lacking the kind of healthcare facilities that exist in urban areas], eating habits, lifestyle habits, etc. And while I agree that healthcare should be ‘universal’ and easily available and ‘free’ or heavily subsidized for the ‘poor’ and struggling working and middle-class, I’m sure these statistics regarding ‘poor’ and ‘uneducated’ people dying early than more wealthy people is mirrored even in countries with ‘free’ healthcare.

    And obesity is rising and a problem among ALL socioeconomic ‘classes’ of people, primarily due to our wealthy first world sedentary lifestyle, especially the suburban drive everywhere lifestyle. Most people still eat and take in the same amount of calories as if they were working a physically demanding job like farming or in a factory, when most today work sedentary jobs.

    Males overall have a shorter lifespan than females, and to my knowledge always have since records have been kept.

  2. julianjoo says

    Really? Like how some of them have black friends? Or gay friends?

    Paris, you are a BIGOT!

    An apology of any magnitude will not be able to reverse my view.

    And I am suspecting she’s hired a PR outfit to post pro-Paris comments here. So bloody gayingly obvious!

  3. gregory brown says

    I think that the unrelenting propaganda for Gay Marriage must have a deleterious effect on the physical and mental health of many people, especially within the cohort of undereducated and poor women.

  4. Polyboy says

    That sounds like the “science is bad mmm’kay” demographic. Given the the theocratic surge, I’d not be surprised if faith healing had taken over as primary care for some people.

  5. Stefan says

    I don’t understand why the researchers frame this in terms of educational attainment. If I had to guess, I’d say that the correlation between education attainment and income is pretty high here, and that when you control for education, income would remain a significant explanatory variable. But I doubt that converse is true: that if you controlled for income, education would be key. Not having a high school education doesn’t seem like it’s enough to cause unhealthy choices–most people have set their behavioral patterns with regard to health long before that. But income, even if you have a high school degree, severely constrains the type of lifestyle you can live.

  6. Markt says

    Stefan and RatBSTD – If you read the original article or study you will find that all of your connections and additional comparisons and insights have already been parsed out. The above is an excerpt.

  7. ratabastard says

    I read the article, MarkT.

    I’d suggest greater ‘outreach’ among ‘uneducated’ white women and men, many of whom live in rural areas as opposed to ‘poor’ and ‘uneducated’ blacks and Hispanics, many of whom live in urban areas where there is far greater ‘outreach’ and social services available.

    I bet if factor for just for location [rural] there’s little difference between uneducated, poor whites, blacks and Hispanics. And this mainly has to do with lifestyle choices [many of which are unavoidable if you have limited resources] and lack of access to ‘outreach’ programs, healthcare facilities and social services.

  8. i could go on, but I won't says

    Maybe it’s a legacy from the Bush/Cheney years?

    Take a trillion dollars for foreign wars, take a trillion for tax cuts for the elite, take a trillion to bail out the banks, before you know it the middle class is looking more like a third world underclass.

    Hey, I could be right about this.

  9. Mike in the Tundra says

    Ratbastard, let a social worker jump into this.I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with what you said. However, wealth is not the only cause of obesity. Poverty is a big cause. Carbohydrates and fats are cheap compared to other food choices. If a family has to, they can live on a steady diet of packaged macaroni and cheese, potatoes, and rice. Inner city folk often live in nutritional deserts. There is really no place to buy fresh vegetables or fruit. All of this can lead to obesity as well as wealth leading to it.

    Obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of medical care can easily result in out of control diabetes.

    Alright, I’ll climb down off of my soapbox now.

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