A new study shows a widespread slide in physical and mental health in the U.S. over the last few decades, a sure and troubling sign of a declining nation.
The decline is greatest among whites, especially white men, in ways that are suggestive of one largely regional subculture, associated with Trumpism, driving down the average. The article is closed access, however, so it is hard to know for sure.
Morbidity and mortality have been increasing among middle-aged and young-old Americans since the turn of the [21st] century. We investigate whether these unfavorable trends extend to younger cohorts and their underlying physiological, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms.
Applying generalized linear mixed effects models to 62,833 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (1988-2016) and 625,221 adults from the National Health Interview Surveys (1997-2018), we find that for all gender and racial groups, physiological dysregulation has increased continuously from Baby Boomers through late-Gen X and Gen Y.
The magnitude of the increase is higher for White men than other groups, while Black men have a steepest increase in low urinary albumin (a marker of chronic inflammation).
In addition, Whites undergo distinctive increases in anxiety, depression, and heavy drinking, and have a higher level than Blacks and Hispanics of smoking and drug use in recent cohorts. Smoking is not responsible for the increasing physiological dysregulation across cohorts. The obesity epidemic contributes to the increase in metabolic syndrome, but not in low urinary albumin.
The worsening physiological and mental health profiles among younger generations imply a challenging morbidity and mortality prospect for the United States, one that may be particularly inauspicious for Whites.
Hui Zheng, Paola Echave "Are Recent Cohorts Getting Worse? Trends in U.S. Adult Physiological Status, Mental Health, and Health Behaviors across a Century of Birth Cohorts" American Journal of Epidemiology, kwab076 (March 18, 2021).
Another recent study also supports this interpretation to some extent. The experience of coal mining areas like Appalachia and Wyoming in the United States is replicated in Europe.
In this paper we examine the impact of natural resource wealth by focusing on historical coal-mining across European regions. As an exogenous source of variation in coal extraction activities, we rely on the presence of coal-deposits located on the earth’s surface, which historically facilitated the discovery and extraction of coal.
Our results show that former coal-mining regions are substantially poorer, with (at least) 10% smaller per-capita GDP than comparable regions in the same country that did not mine coal. We provide evidence that much of this lag is explained by lower levels of human capital accumulation and that this human-capital effect is concentrated in men. Finally, we provide suggestive evidence that the persistently lower levels of human capital in coal mining regions that we document result from the crystallization of negative attitudes towards education and lower future orientations in these regions.
Elena Esposito & Scott Abramson, "The European coal curse" Journal of Economic Growth, Pages 77–112 (March 2021).