A decades-long decline in the death rate of middle-aged white Americans has reversed in recent years, according to a surprising new analysis released Monday.
The cause of the reversal remains unclear. Researchers speculate it might be the result of the bad economy fueling a rise in suicides, plus overdoses from prescription painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin, and alcohol abuse.
The mortality rate among whites ages 45 to 54 had increased by a half-percent a year from 381.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 415.4 in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, the researchers found.
I resemble that demographic, being on the high end of it at present. That is the most un-PC demographic possible. They are men, not old enough to cater to as senior citizens nor young enough to cater to as youth fresh out of school. They're also often hard to fit into a new job if they lose theirs, as younger workers are seen as cheaper, more malleable and projecting to be with the firm longer.
Any affirmative action is going against this group, unless they have some sort of disability that gives them downtrodden status. They're the ones who are expected to check their privilege, but that privilege and $2.50 gets you a latte at McDonalds, maybe a little less if the cashier thinks you get a senior discount.
It takes older workers more time to find a new job, and not finding a job quickly makes it even harder to get one, creating a nasty feedback loop of despair that can depress folks. Obamacare might make it easier to see a psychiatrist than at the turn of the millennium, but the stagnant economy makes it more likely to need to see one.
That could well be driving this uptick in deaths. The person who's too young to retire and too old to start from scratch with a new career falls between the cracks in the marketplace and gets little extra help from Uncle Sam since they're supposed to be the ones who don't need any help.
Church-wise, there is not much in the way of tools to minister to these folks. Men's ministries seem to be targeted to questions of being a better husband and father rather than trying to find a place in the economy. Networking to get them hooked up with an employer willing to take a chance on a retread might help, but that doesn't fit an evangelistic paradigm on the right side or helping the least of these on the left side; plus, you have the issue of finding someone who is willing to help someone rather than just getting "the best person for the job" which might be a younger and less needy person.
Self medicating such problems, especially for macho types who don't want to admit to depression issues, becomes a problem. That can be doubly true for conservative Christians who are often in a worldview that emotional issues are a character flaw that should be dealt with with faith and prayer. Add a victorious-living vibe and even admitting you have issues can be problematic.
I don't see a good way to change this trend, other than making it a bit easier to ask for help both financially and culturally. From a church standpoint, it would require a person-to-person touch that falls through the programmatic cracks, more ministering to a particular person than a capital-m Ministry.