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Report: Death Rates Rise Among Whites in Missouri

For some rural Missourians, it's a struggle to live a longer, healthier life. A new report on higher death rates among whites makes recommendations to curb this tragic trend. (Pixabay)
For some rural Missourians, it's a struggle to live a longer, healthier life. A new report on higher death rates among whites makes recommendations to curb this tragic trend. (Pixabay)
January 19, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Thirty-three rural counties across Missouri are seeing their white residents die at higher rates than two decades ago. The increase in white mortality is causing concern among researchers, who say it signals a reversal of long term life expectancy trends also occurring for people of other races.

A report from the Missouri Foundation for Health says rural areas, like Bootheel and Ozark, have seen the largest increase in death rates. Robert Hughes, CEO and president of the foundation, says those areas suffer from long term poverty, unemployment, and a lack of healthcare access.

"Primarily, in terms of just causes of deaths, were really substance abuse and suicide were kind of the leading reasons for deaths,” says Hughes. “So, those stood out as things that really deserve a great deal of attention from leaders in our state. "

Hughes found a near 600 percent increase in drug overdoses.

The report is careful to note that overall mortality rates are still disproportionately higher for certain ethnic groups. However, Hughes says the unprecedented loss of life expectancy for whites is a significant cause for concern. And the report offers some strategies to improve the numbers – from job retraining and paid family leave, to universal health care.

The report found a 30 percent increase in suicides. Hughes says for a host of reasons, people don't seem to have the hope for brighter prospects for the future that they've held onto in the past.

"You know, whether it's for lack of job opportunities or lack of educational opportunities, or other reasons, this has contributed to these behaviors, which have resulted in these increase mortality rates," he says.

Economic loss and social changes are both cited as significant causes of the increase in white mortality – not just in Missouri, but across the country.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MO