News ID: 214025
Published: 0514 GMT April 27, 2018

Race now plays smaller role in Americans' risk of dying young

Race now plays smaller role in Americans' risk of dying young
RHODA BAER/WIKIMEDIA

The racial gap between black and white Americans for dying early has narrowed, but opioid overdose deaths among whites might be fueling part of that otherwise positive trend.

The new findings stem from an analysis of death records between 1990 and 2014, which tracked ‘years of life lost’, meaning the difference between an individual's projected natural life span and the actual age of death, HealthDay News wrote.

During that time frame, the years-of-life-lost figure for blacks plummeted by 28 percent, the researchers reported.

"This is largely driven by declining heart disease, HIV and cancer death rates in black adults in their 30s and 40s," explained study author Jeanine Buchanich. She is a research associate and professor of biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

"We think that this is a positive finding that should be further explored to guide future public health efforts," she added. "And it indicates that racial disparities in mortality are not inevitable."

Still, during the same period, some white Americans saw their risk for an early death rise in equally dramatic fashion.

For example, among white women aged 25 to 54, the years-of-life-lost figure jumped 26 percent, likely attributable to the ever-growing opioid crisis in the United States.

David Katz, director of the Yale University's Prevention Research Center, described the findings as "definitely a good news/bad news scenario."

On the plus side, said Katz, are the fruits of public health efforts to improve access to health care, health care information and social support among those who have traditionally lacked that access.

On the other hand, he noted that "the increased burden of years of lost life for white Americans, especially women, due to substance abuse, is a national tragedy."

Across the entire American population, the annual number of years of life lost dropped by 10 percent during the study time frame.

   
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