Middle-Aged Whites In NC Are Despairing To Death

Feb 8, 2018

Middle-aged whites in North Carolina's poorest counties had markedly elevated rates of suicide, drug overdose and other diseases of despair.
Credit Ryan Melaugh/Flickr Creative Commons

A new public health report from ECU shows that the death rate for midlife whites in the state increased 6 percent from 2000 to 2013. Many of these deaths can be attributed to so-called diseases of despair, like suicide, drug overdose and liver disease caused by alcoholism.

These rates reflect a national trend, but also highlight a widening gulf between life expectancy in the U.S. and countries like Canada, where a stronger social support network may create greater resilience. They also contrast starkly with North Carolina’s death rate for middle-aged non-whites, which decreased by 30 percent over the same time period.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Chris Mansfield, professor emeritus of public health at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, about the research findings and the correlation between economic distress, health and mortality.