Brown: Why are white women in rural areas dying?

Marcus Brown
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Often, the results of statistics do not surprise us and, if anything, support or reinforce previously held beliefs. Nowadays, if new statistical findings showed a correlation between, say, severe drug addiction and the pawning off of one’s possessions, it wouldn’t come off as much of a shock.
However, there are times in which the in-depth analysis of statistics reveals startling trends that defy expectation. Such is the case with the recent findings by the Washington Post based on information collected from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention that indicate a rise in the mortality of white women “around small cities and in rural areas”.

Most notably these findings show a clear disparity that appears to transcend the presumable difference in mortality rates among racial demographic groups. The Post’s finding further supports findings made in a study conducted by economists from Princeton University that showed an increase in the mortality rate for middle-age white Americans and goes on to explore how geographic location influences the disparity.

The mortality rate of “rural white women in their late 40s” has risen dramatically with an increase of 30 percent, while the rate among other ethnic demographics have dropped.
Much like how the disappearance of bees as evidence of an overall negative trend in the Earth’s environmental trajectory, I think the same could be said about an uptick in the premature deaths of white women in America. When looking at life expectancy in this country from a gender perspective, women usually live longer than men regardless of ethnicity. The general advantage in terms of life expectancy attributed to women is certainly cause for further examination of data illustrating a near doubling of the death rate since 1990 among a traditionally privileged demographic.

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The Post’s findings do not point to any intrinsic cause of death that could be ascribed to gender alone because if that were the case such an inherent disparity would have been discovered much earlier on. Middle-aged white women in rural areas are not dying just because they are women. What we appear to be seeing is a comorbidity of suicide, substance abuse, mental illness, and other public-health issues further exacerbated by a divide in the geographic factors between urban and rural areas.

Large spikes in mortality rates are uncommon among affluent nations like the United States, but findings like these demonstrate that the overall stability of a country does not always proportionately affect the population. This is especially the case when it comes to public health where the benefits of the upper margins of society do not extend to more isolated pockets such as rural areas in the United States. That is not to say the plight of areas should be treated as though they have no bearing on the fate of the rest of the nation.

If anything we can look to data that highlight growing disparities among select demographics as cause to reexamine the potential for these findings to spread, as they more than likely are not occurring in a vacuum.

Smaller cities and rural areas do not benefit from the amount of societal infrastructure put in place in larger metropolitan areas that would mitigate certain public-health failings. However, areas and demographics that are more susceptible can often foreshadow issues that could affect the larger population, because these growing disparities are more visible on smaller scales.

Often, the condition of the most afflicted demographic presents the most accurate reflection of that present society as a whole, and for that reason, the results of studies and research such as this is invaluable.

 

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