Last November 9th I discussed declining life expectancy in the US with Dr. Steven Woolf, i.e., US life expectancy stopped increasing in 2010 and had been decreasing since 2014. This is significantly due to increasing mortality rates among men, disproportionately white men aged 25-64, for approximately 30 disease conditions ranging from cancer, cerebrovascular, circulatory, genitourinary, infectious mental and behavioral, musculoskeletal, nervous, and respiratory diseases. These premature deaths have become popularly termed, "deaths of despair," a phrased coined by Princeton's Anne Case and Angus Deaton and is the title of their 2020 book, “Deaths of Despair and the the Future of Capitalism." These authors define these deaths, numbering on average 70,000 per year, as those resulting from alcohol and drug abuse and suicide. For example, per CDC findings in July drug overdoses increased to 90,000 in 2020, or by 30% over 2019. While deaths of despair have been identified at least since the 1890s, federal policy makers have yet to seriously address this issue.
During this 35 minute interview Prof. Graham begins by recognizing Émile Durkheim's related anomic suicide work from the 1890s, she goes on to discuss why poverty is different or more hopeless in the US, moreover among white poor, and what explains this difference between races, discusses what helps to explain why deaths of despair, or diseases of despair, have not been addressed by federal healthcare policy makers, discusses her recommendation for the creation of a federal, interagency task force to address this problem and metrics to track, for example, anxiety, depression, life satisfaction and well being.
Dr. Carol Graham is the Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, a College Park Professor at the University of Maryland and a Senior Scientist at Gallup. She is the author of numerous books including : “Happiness for All? Unequal Lives and Hopes in Pursuit of the American Dream” (2017); “The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-
Being” (2011); “Happiness Around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires” (2009); and, “Private Markets for Public Goods: Raising the Stakes in Economic Reform” (1998). She is also the author of numerous articles in journals including Science, Social Science and Medicine, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the Journal of Population Economics, Economica, Perspectives in Psychological Science, the World Bank Research Observer, Health Affairs, Health Economics and Foreign Affairs. She is senior editor of Behavioral Science and Policy, and an associate editor at the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization and on the editorial boards of numerous other economic journals. She served on a National Academy of Sciences panel on well-being metrics and policy and won the Pioneer Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a Lifetime Distinguished Scholar award from the International Society of Quality of Life Studies. She has served as a Special Advisor to the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and served as a consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, United Nations Development Program, and the Harvard Institute for International Development. Born in Peru, she received her A.B. from Princeton, her M.A. from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and her Ph.D. from Oxford. She is the mother of three children.
Professor Graham's Brookings' writings discussed during this interview are at: https://www.brookings.edu/experts/carol-graham/.
(Please excuse this interview's varying sound quality.)