The less educated white Americans in the middle-age are dying at a shocking rate. The phenomena of "deaths of despair”—related to suicides, drug overdoses, and alcohol-consumption—is the focus on a new paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton. The two economists followed up on the results of their ground-breaking paper in 2015: the midlife mortality rate of white, non-Hispanic Americans has shockingly increased.

It's an identity trait

In their paper "Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century" published by the Brookings Institutions on Thursday, Case and Deaton identified these deaths as related to class, not geography. Regardless of where they live, the white American Working Class between the ages of 45 and 55 are battling the same alcohol-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, the same life threatening behaviors and suicides.

What's strange is that minorities in the same social class are facing the same economic hardships, but their death rates are not increasing. According to Case, the study also reveals an increase in physical pain, or what she calls "a sea of despair".

Sea of despair

White men and women have long been facing "deaths of despair". Since 1999, Case and Deaton found. Their new paper highlighted a much clearer view of the relationship between the increase in death rates and the changes happening in the job markets since the 70s. The labor market has very much turned against the men without college degrees, who are less likely to receive rising incomes. Their marriage rates and labor participation rates have fallen, while reports of physical pain and poor health and mental health rise.

Suicides, jobs, and marriages

Based on these findings, the death rates of high school educated whites aged 50 to 54 in 1999 was 30 percent lower than the death rate for all African Americans in the same age group.

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That number was 30 percent higher in 2015. "It is not just their careers that have gone down the tubes, but their marriage prospects, their ability to raise children," Deaton told the Chicago Tribune. The professor of economics received a Nobel Prize in 2015 for his works in analyzing poverty. Death rates in Europe for people with a lack of education are all falling, but for Americans the numbers soar.