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Elite journals rejected alarming paper on surge of deaths

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The Washington Post reports that an alarming study showing  a surge of deaths among middle-aged whites was rejected by the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England J0urnal of Medicine. Looking at the findings, many observers have cited the increase of depression and anxiety among downwardly mobile middle-aged people despairing of ever improving their lot in the face of rapid technological change and globalization.

Thw study’s co-author, Nobel laureate Angus Deaton, has been discussing this rejection.

Angus Deaton, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Anne Case, both Princeton economists, received international media attention for the paper published  in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Deaton and Case then tried the New England Journal of Medicine, putting their work in the form of a two-page “Perspective” that summarized the alarming trend they’d discovered in government mortality statistics. Again they were rejected, The Post reported.

The Post reported that Professor Deaton “compared the response to calling the fire department to report that your house is on fire: And they say, ‘Well, what caused the fire?’ and you say, ‘I don’t know,’ and they say, ‘Well, we can’t send the fire brigade until you tell us what caused the fire.’ ”

“The report points to a surge in overdoses from opioid medication and heroin, liver disease and other problems that stem from alcohol abuse, and suicides.”

Mr. Deaton’s analysis: “There’s this widening between people at the top and the people who have a ho-hum education and they’re not tooled up to compete in a technological economy. … Not only are these people struggling economically, but they’re experiencing this health catastrophe too, so they’re being hammered twice.”

“An increasingly pessimistic view of their financial future combined with the increased availability of opioid drugs has created this kind of perfect storm of adverse outcomes,” Jonathan Skinner, a professor of economics at Dartmouth,  told The Post.

The healthcare sector will have a tough time dealing with what the findings may mean as despairing people head toward retirement and Medicare.

A sicker  and economically battered population  less able to prepare for the costs of old age will place an increasing burden on society and federal, state and private-sector programs.


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