By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
30th Congressional District of Texas in the US House of Representatives
The number of people dying in the prime of their lives in our country has been steadily increasing during the past half-century, according to a new study that surveyed causes of recent mortality. Those affected included people from all racial groups, as well as residents in the nation’s metropolitan and rural areas.
Among the causes of premature deaths were heart disease, stroke, suicide, drug overdoses, alcoholism and pulmonary disease, according to the report published recently in JAMA, the literary voice of the highly-regarded American Medical Association, the nation’s leading organization for medical professionals since its founding in the mid-1800s.
The results point to a distinctly alarming American health disparity when compared to other affluent nations, according to the study’s principal researcher, Dr. Steven Woolf who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Woolf describes the results as potentially harmful to the future of our country and its productivity. The American life expectancy actually began to slow down in the 1980s, he said.
“We are losing people in the most productive periods of their lives. Children are losing parents and employers have a sicker workforce,” said Dr. Woolf, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at VCU. The statement of the study, increased deaths was described as unprecedented by numerous health professionals, particularly since our country spends more on healthcare per capita than any other nation.
While the deaths of children and senior citizens are declining, largely because those two groups have access to Medicare or Medicaid, the death rate for people between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four has increased, health professionals said.
Two mid-western states, Ohio and Indiana, are among the five where the death rates are the highest in the nation. Some health professionals point out that the closing of automobile plants, steel mills and manufacturers are linked to increased deaths in those areas.
The mortality rate has consistently increased annually during the 20th century, one health professional was quoted as saying. “The 21st century is a major exception. Since 2010, there’s been no improvement in mortality among working-aged people.”