Web MD - Princeton University researchers report that the overall death rate of white adults in midlife has risen sharply over the past 15 years, largely because of drug and alcohol overdoses, suicide, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver. The tally is on par with the nation's AIDS deaths, they added.
No other industrialized nation has experienced a similar deterioration in health during the timeframe studied -- 1999 to 2013, the researchers said in background notes. Meanwhile, death rates of U.S. Hispanics and blacks continue to plummet.
Results of the analysis, funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, were published online Nov. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It happened very quietly," Case said. "The despair is really there. It's just that the focus has not been on it."
Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the analysis provides the first evidence that behavioral issues, such as misuse of alcohol and narcotic painkillers, are affecting the overall death rate for an entire group of people often considered exempt from such issues.
"Pretty startling," he said.