A columnist and an Oxford university professor says a downward trend in life expectancy and an increase in early deaths registered among men and women in the United States and Britain are rooted in economic and social malaises.
Will Hutton, a columnist for The Observer and the principal of Hertford College, Oxford, wrote in an opinion piece on The Guardian on Sunday that people in the US and Britain “are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike.”
He called it “a barely reported public health crisis.”
In the article, Hutton cited statistics from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showing that midlife death rates across racial and ethnic groups in the US had increased during 1999-2016.
The BMJ article says a vicious cycle of poverty and neglect was the main factor in the early deaths of poor working-age Americans of all races.
Hutton said poverty alone wasn’t to blame.
“It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer,” he wrote.
He said, “Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence.”
And he seemed to suggest that that was also the case in Britain.
“US doctors coined a phrase for this condition: ‘shit-life syndrome,’” Hutton wrote.
“Shit-life syndrome captures the truth that the bald medical statistics have economic and social roots,” he said.
“Patients so depressed they are prescribed or seek opioids — or resort to alcohol — are suffering not so much from their demons but from the circumstances of their lives. They have a lot to be depressed about,” the academic wrote.
Hutton urged leaders and policy makers to take action to stop the premature deaths of their working class populations, concluding that taking no action against the phenomenon would be equivalent to criminal negligence.