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VCU Study: American Death Rate Increasing Among Workers In Their Prime

Steven Woolf Testifying Before a Senate Committee
Steven Woolf, Testifying Before Senate HELP Committee (Courtesy: Steven Woolf)

A report released yesterday from Virginia Commonwealth University says America’s workforce is dying off faster than any other wealthy country in the world.  Despite massive expenditures in health care, the overall life expectancy in the United States is down for the last three consecutive years.

The lead author of the report is Steven Woolf, the director emeritus at VCU's Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. He says Americans in their prime, ages 25 to 64 are dying in increasingly higher numbers.

"We have a misconception in this country that we are the healthiest population in the world and that’s not the case," Woolf said. "But also that we focus more of our policy priorities on addressing the root causes, because if we don’t, this trend is going to continue and our children are destined to live shorter lives than we are." 

The report found the death rate cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. Some of the hardest hit areas include the Rust Belt and Appalachia. Major factors include opioid use as well as distracted driving with cell phones. 

"It’s also due to increasing deaths from alcoholism and suicides, what some people call deaths of despair.  And from dozens of organ diseases, diabetes, hypertensive heart disease and many other conditions," Woolf explained. 

The study was undertaken last December at the invitation of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Click here to read more of the report's findings.