Since 1998, people all over the world have been living healthier and living longer. But middle-aged, white non-Hispanics in the United States have been getting sicker and dying in greater numbers. The trend is being driven primarily by people with a high-school degree or less.
That's the sobering takeaway from a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published this week.
The reasons for the increased death rate are not the usual things that kill Americans, like diabetes and heart disease. Rather, it’s suicide, alcohol and drug poisonings, and alcohol-related liver disease.
The least-educated are worst off.
More from The Atlantic.
What we're seeing here, I believe, is the end result of privileged distress. It's still not objectively harder to be white in American than non-white, but the traditional privileges of whiteness have shrunk, particularly for the working class, while visions of how life is supposed to be (for white people) are pegged to the achievements of our parents. Consequently, it gets harder and harder for working-class whites to live up to the expectations they were raised to have. By middle age many feel like failures, and live with a corresponding lack of self-regard.
Is it any wonder they look for scapegoats?
More from the Weekly Sift.