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Trifecta of opioids, alcohol and suicide are blamed for the drop in U.S. life expectancy

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Nowhere are these trends more dramatic than in rural counties, where decades of social and economic changes have made the lives of white Americans less secure than their parents', Woolf and Aron wrote.

About 15% of the nation's population — some 46 million persons — lived in counties outside metropolitan areas in 2014.

The lives of non-Latino whites, largely in rural or small or medium metropolitan counties, were mostly being shortened by suicide, drug overdoses and liver disease — a condition closely linked to alcoholism.

The authors of the BMJ essay note that the roughly 15-year run-up in drug deaths and suicides has not been seen in black Americans.

In once-thriving communities outside the nation's metropolitan areas, industries have collapsed.

But economic collapse might be too easy an explanation for rural white communities' epidemic of despair, said Woolf, who has studied the urban-rural health divide across the country.

When the social fabric of a community is frayed, its residents may be more inclined to salve their woes in self-destructive behaviors, he added.

Its social divides (including income inequality) widened.

And its poverty rates exceeded those of most rich countries.

If policy makers wanted to reverse the trend of shortening U.S. lifespans,


Author: @DailyCupofYoga

Source: latimes.com