Speaking of social studies, another eye catching one was published a week ago, by a Nobel Prize winner, nonetheless. Not for this study but still. It was on the suspiciously high mortality among middle aged white Americans and it was widely reported, here’s The Atlantic’s take on it.
These guys were looking at something else and noticed a strange increase in white American mortality. They investigated it further and found that it is really happening and not a fluke. It has been on the rise and, compared to the expected rates, practically doubled. Not in absolute numbers but everyone else, blacks and Hispanics, and pretty much the rest of the world, saw a significant decrease and, if you look at the charts in the article, American whites are twice as likely to die in middle age than any other group now, save for blacks.
What happened? No one knows for sure but the researches attribute it to increase in suicides and drug and alcohol poisoning. They discounted heart disease and diabetes but took note of side effects of increased drug consumption. I don’t know if it was justified and whether they missed some other possible connections but in their view it’s all due to legal drugs, like prescription medicine and alcohol. There’s also a significant rise in heroin consumption but I think it’s statistically low to affect the entire population.
Up until now everyone thought that drug abuse wasn’t a big problem, certainly not big enough to show any demographic effects but it turns out that it’s not the case anymore. They compared this increase in mortality to the effect of the AIDS epidemic, or to a sudden life expectancy drop in post-Soviet Russia.
The reasons are pretty much the same, too – people’s dreams crashed. Russians drank themselves to death, seeing their once great country going down the drain, and Americans had their inflation adjusted incomes shrink by 20% since the turn of the century.
Why whites, though? Because their expectations were unrealistically high. Hispanics can compare their present day life to what it could have been back in Latin America and they see an improvement. Blacks never had high hopes at all, nothing to be frustrated about, but white Americans were supposed to live the dream and it didn’t happen.
College educated ones are still doing okay, mortality wise, higher education still pays, I guess, but those without college degrees ruined it for the rest of the group. Perhaps in the near future debt laden graduates competing for part time jobs with fifty year olds will turn to drugs, too, who knows, but for now it hasn’t happened yet. They still have high hopes, being close to one percenters and eager to exploit income inequality for themselves.
For those who never went to college, however, life is essentially over and it won’t get better, there’s no hope. They fell through the cracks, they didn’t make it, they see themselves as losers in a society where everyone else projects only wealth and success.
Why different from the rest of the white world, especially Europe which, if you believe mainstream media, still hasn’t recovered from 2008 crisis? Because in Europe everyone’s retirement is guaranteed, thanks to socialist policies. Same whites in the US have no savings, no plan B, no comfort and safety in their future, and this drives them to drugs and suicidal thoughts.
There could also be a problem with religious disaffiliation, there are lots of studies showing that religious Americans have better health, but the authors of this one didn’t mention the correlation. It’s not difficult to find relevant studies on the subject, like this one, for example.
Depression is a big problem in itself and it affects the whole white world, not just the Americans. Recently I saw someone praising Iceland as an exemplary country where they do everything right. They jailed their bankers, for example. Some say that while the bankers are in jail, the money stolen from other countries are still in Iceland so it’s not really a perfect lesson in morality, but still, Iceland has a lot going for it on the surface and it’s one of the least religious countries in the world.
What it is the undisputed world leader, though, is in taking antidepressants. More than one in ten adults is hooked on them, more than in any other country in the world. 30% of their women over 65 are on antidepressants, everyone is taking “happy pills” all the time, twice as many as in Norway. Denmark, the other statistically happy country, is on antidepressants, too. Americans were not included in this article but they give the number of 23 million in 2010, which would make it ten percent of the white population. I would think that blacks and Hispanics do not use/can’t afford prescription drugs as much as the whites so it could be that whites are seriously depressed there and have been depressed for the past fifteen years. Consumption of these drugs has doubled.
What’s interesting in that article is that gays are twice as likely to be on antidepressants than straights. Why? I don’t know, but these past fifteen years have been very kind to them as a social group, they leaped from one victory to another. Somehow gay dream doesn’t pay off either.
You know what else has doubled since the turn of the century – the number of atheists (or “Nones”), as shown in this “Friendly Atheist” article.
Correlation doesn’t imply causation (hkcd) but it does gesture furtively while mouthing “look over there”.
Crash of the American dream is a significant step towards freeing people from the illusion of success but crash of atheism would be much more welcome. So far atheists are on the rise and they believe the future belongs to them but I think they ignore much deeper and potentially more dangerous problems, like the ones I discussed today. When these problems come to claim their toll no one would turn to atheism for solace, that’s for sure, and their rosy statistics will go down like Wall Street stock indices.
Hmm, I wonder if its true – that belief in atheism follows the same boom-bust cycle as people’s belief in stocks? Could be, but it’s beyond today’s post scope.
We shouldn’t shy away from capitalizing on people’s realization that the promised materialistic success is a mirage, now is the best time to appeal to their higher nature, otherwise they’d be too distracted by sense gratification. I bet lots of people have direct experience of these problems even if they do not admit so on the internet, or at least they personally know someone affected by these problems, so no matter their posturing, our message will get through and will make people think twice about importance of their spiritual health. They can deny God all they want, when going gets tough it will all be forgotten. We just have to make sure we delivered our message so they can remember it when the time comes. It’s not going to be in vain.