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Recent increases in all-cause mortality rates among the middle-aged U.S. white population have been explained in terms of elevated levels of midlife distress. This brief report provides evidence against this explanation for recent mortality trends among U.S. white men and women. Official mortality rates for U.S. white men and women aged 45-54 from suicide, chronic liver disease, drug poisonings, and other "extrinsic" causes of death (i.e., causes external to the body) between 1980 and 2013 are examined. Results suggest that recent increases in extrinsic mortality among the middle-aged U.S. white population are overwhelmingly driven by rapid increases in drug-related mortality. The contributions of chronic liver disease and suicide to U.S. white men's and women's mortality levels have been fairly stable for the past 30 years. Further, large gender differences in extrinsic mortality trends are observed. These two findings are inconsistent with the explanation that distress among the middle-aged U.S. white population is a common cause driving trends in U.S. white mortality.

Original publication




Journal article


Biodemography Soc Biol

Publication Date





31 - 37


Age Factors, End Stage Liver Disease, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Mortality, Prescription Drug Misuse, Racial Groups, Sex Factors, Suicide, United States