The estimated life expectancy of whites and non-Hispanic blacks living in the United States aged 25 years dropped between 2010 and 2017. However, life-expectancy rose among those in the same cohort with a college education and decreased among those who did not have a 4-year college degree.
The findings were recently published in JAMA.
“To reduce social inequalities in mortality, it is important to understand how specific causes of death have contributed to increasing educational differences in adult life expectancy in recent years,” Isaac Sasson, PhD, of the department of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University, Israel, and Mark D. Hayward, PhD, of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote.
They analyzed life expectancy in individuals aged 25 years and the years of life lost between ages 25 and 84 years by cause of death among 2,211,633 individuals in 2010, and 2,479,096 individuals in 2017.
Estimated life expectancy of whites and non-Hispanic blacks living in the U.S. aged 25 years dropped between 2010 and 2017. However, expected life-expectancy rose among those in the same cohort with a college education and decreased among those who did not have a 4-year college degree. The findings appeared in JAMA.
Sasson and Hayward found that between 2010 and 2017, life expectancy in individuals aged 25 years significantly declined from 79.34 to 79.15 years among white and black non-Hispanic U.S. residents.
Other findings regarding life expectancy at age 25 years included:
- large decreases among all individuals with a high school degree or less (white women: –1.14 years; white men: –1.05 years; and black men: –0.3 years).
- large decreases among white adults with some college education but no 4-year college degree (men: –0.89 years; and women: –0.59 years).
- significant increases among those with a college education (white men: 0.58 years; white women: 0.78 years; and black women: 1.7 years).
The difference in life expectancy between high- and low-education groups increased from 2010 to 2017, largely because life-years lost due to drug use increased among those with a high school degree or less, according to researchers.
“Prior research attributed the rise in mortality to ‘deaths of despair,' which consist of drug use, alcohol use and suicide," the researchers wrote. "These deaths ... reflect self-destructive behaviors linked to the growing social isolation, economic distress and downward social mobility .... “However, deteriorating economic conditions at the county level appear to explain less than one-tenth of the rise in drug- and opioid related deaths."
“Furthermore, consistent with prior research, this study finds that increases in life years lost to drug use were substantially larger than increases associated with alcohol use and suicide,” Sasson and Hayward added. – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.