New maps reveal where Americans are dying at alarming rates from drugs, alcohol, suicide, and homicide. These so-called deaths of despair do not affect all places equally.
Drug-related deaths have increased by 618.3% since 1980, and Appalachian states have been hit the hardest. The opioid epidemic is likely to blame.
Deaths due to homicide decreased by 44.9% overall across the country, but rates spiked in parts of the South and Mississippi Delta.
Deaths from suicide decreased between 1980 and 2000, then increased between 2000 and 2014. Alaska and Western states were hit the hardest.
The number of alcohol-related deaths increased in Alaska and in some Southwestern states.
"This is a good reminder that what we see at the national level often doesn’t reflect what’s going on in many parts of the country."
"Broadly speaking, mortality from alcohol use disorders, suicides, and homicides has gone down since 1980, but this hides individual counties where the opposite is true. Progress overall doesn’t mean progress for everyone, and we hope that this research can be used to identify communities that are struggling," Dwyer-Lindgren said.
The researchers hope the findings help people develop policies and public health strategies that reduce these deaths of despair.
"Deaths from substance use disorders and intentional injuries are particularly interesting from this perspective because they are preventable, and because they tend to affect younger individuals than most major causes of death," Dwyer-Lindgren said.
"The better we all understand why some places do well and why others do poorly, the better equipped we are to improve the situation for everyone," she said.