Covid-19 and overdose deaths drive U.S. life expectancy to a 25-year low

“Life expectancy in the United States dropped last year to its lowest since 1996, extending a downward trend that began in 2020, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest figures from the CDC, which leave expected U.S. lifespans well below those in other large, wealthy nations, reflect the federal and local governments’ ongoing struggle to meet the demands of concurrent public health crises.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had “a domino effect,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, by “exacerbating the already very severe problem that we have in overdose deaths.”

The two crises, the Covid-19 pandemic and rising drug addiction and overdoses, are “a wake-up call” for government, added Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It clearly is what’s cutting into the health of our communities, unlike almost anything we’ve seen before.””

“The ongoing politicization of the U.S. Covid response has negatively impacted many Americans’ decisions about vaccination and other mitigation measures. Roughly 14 percent of Americans and 36 percent of people 65 and over have received the latest booster, according to the CDC.

At the same time, Volkow believes the pandemic drove social changes that made people more vulnerable to taking drugs as a way of escaping. The pandemic also made it harder to get help. “Resources that were able to support people in the past were no longer available,” she said.”

Arizona Town To Pay $8 Million to Widow of Daniel Shaver, Shot While Crawling Unarmed Toward Police

“In January 2016, Mesa police responded to a report of a man pointing a rifle out of a hotel window. It was in fact Shaver showing a pellet gun that he used at his exterminator job to a couple other hotel guests in his room.

Police ordered Shaver out of the hotel room and onto the ground, with his hands behind his head. But instead of handcuffing Shaver, officers—bizarrely—started barking confusing and contradictory orders at him to crawl toward them. As a clearly terrified and drunk Shaver tried to crawl toward the police, he appeared to reach toward his waistband to pull up his sagging shorts. A Mesa officer, Philip Mitchell Brailsford, shot Shaver five times with an AR-15, killing him.”

“In 2017, a jury acquitted Brailsford of second-degree murder and reckless manslaughter. This is because juries are instructed to judge officers not by how a normal civilian would respond, but by how a reasonable police officer is trained to respond to a threat, real or imagined. As Reason’s Jacob Sullum wrote, the acquittal showed that cops on trial benefit from a double standard: “Unlike ordinary citizens, they can kill with impunity as long as they say they were afraid, whether or not their fear was justified.””

“Brailsford indeed challenged his termination, and in response, the city cut a special deal that allowed him to be temporarily re-hired so he could retire with medical benefits and a disability pension. Brailsford claimed that killing Shaver and his subsequent prosecution gave him post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of this, he will receive a monthly pension check of $2,569.21 for the rest of his life, courtesy of Mesa taxpayers.”

Why are American lives getting shorter?

“the US was one of only two among 21 selected similar wealthy countries — along with Israel — in which life expectancy continued to decline last year. While most countries suffered hundreds of thousands of untimely deaths during the first year of Covid-19, once people began to get vaccinated, life expectancies for almost all the 21 countries either stayed the same or began to rise again, many up to their pre-pandemic levels.

The US started off with lower pre-Covid life expectancies than other rich countries like South Korea, France, and Australia. It has been the case for decades that the United States spends exorbitant amounts on health care, yet has worse health outcomes than comparable countries. Even before the pandemic, people in the US faced the opioid epidemic, gun violence, and higher chronic disease rates than people in other rich countries.”

“Lack of health access and a robust public health care system exacerbated Covid-19’s effects, said Noreen Goldman, a professor of demography and public affairs at Princeton University. The lack of national coordination to address the pandemic, and lower vaccination rates, said Goldman, have also been a factor in outcomes being worse in the US than other comparable countries.
Young people were dying more from Covid-19 in 2021 than 2020, said Theresa Andrasfay, a demography researcher at the University of Southern California. While age remains the biggest risk factor, more middle-aged adults who are not vaccinated are dying. Additionally, she said, high rates of chronic disease, obesity, and diabetes had not yet affected mortality statistics, but when a disease — Covid-19 — came along that had these as risk factors, “it was like lighting a match.””

We talk about heat waves in a weird way

“heat is the deadliest weather phenomenon in a typical year in the United States, killing an average of 148 people annually in the 30 years from 1992 to 2021, and climate change is only going to make heat waves more common. We already categorize tornadoes, and we name wildfires. Hurricanes get both. Would extending those ideas to heat waves help?”

A New Study Finds No Correlation Between Opioid Prescriptions and Drug-Related Deaths

“Using data for 2010 through 2019, Aubry and Carr looked at the relationship between prescription opioid sales, measured by morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per capita, and four outcomes: total drug-related deaths, total opioid-related deaths, deaths tied specifically to prescription opioids, and “opioid use disorder” treatment admissions. “The analyses revealed that the direct correlations (i.e., significant, positive slopes) reported by the CDC based on data from 1999 to 2010 no longer exist,” they write. “The relationships between [the outcome variables] and Annual Prescription Opioid Sales (i.e., MME per Capita) are either non-existent or significantly negative/inverse.”
Those findings held true in “a strong majority of states,” Aubry and Carr report. From 2010 through 2019, “there was a statistically significant negative correlation (95% confidence level) between [opioid deaths] and Annual Prescription Opioid Sales in 38 states, with significant positive correlations occurring in only 2 states. Ten states did not exhibit significant (95% confidence level) relationships between overdose deaths and prescription opioid sales during the 2010–2019 time period.””

“Yet the CDC is still pushing the narrative that more opioid prescribing means more opioid-related deaths.”

“In light of what has happened since 2010, Aubry and Carr say, relying on those outdated numbers is highly misleading. They say the CDC’s advice “should be corrected/updated to state no direct correlation has existed” between prescription opioid sales and drug-related deaths or treatment admissions since 2010, and “individualized patient care and public health policy should be amended accordingly.””

After the latest clash with Israel, Gazans’ struggle continues

“Israeli forces launched a preemptive strike against PIJ targets on August 5, Reuters reported, after one of the group’s leaders, Bassam al-Saadi, was arrested in the Occupied West Bank. Israel claims to have hit a number of PIJ targets. However, several civilians, including 17 children, were killed in the clashes, both by Israeli weapons and possibly by errant PIJ rockets intended for Israeli targets. A ceasefire brokered by Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, the US, the UN, and the Palestinian Authority between Israel and the PIJ last Sunday has thus far held; however, an attack on worshipers in Jerusalem’s Old City late on Sunday could portend more violence. At least eight people, including US citizens, were injured in the attack, which was allegedly carried out by a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, according to Israeli authorities. They have not yet released his name, and there is no indication that he is affiliated with any larger group, according to Reuters.

Despite the ceasefire, the aftermath of even short-term hostilities in Gaza goes far beyond active bombardments and shelling; the combination of years of violence, a brutal blockade, and state repression has created an enduring crisis. What’s more, there’s little chance to recover before violence breaks out again.

According to initial UN reporting, 360 Palestinians have been injured in the fighting, and Gazans experienced a tightened Israeli blockade of goods and services that led to 20-plus-hour rolling blackouts each day. There were no Israeli deaths or serious injuries, the Associated Press reported”

“The Gaza strip is home to around 2 million Palestinians and has been governed by Hamas since 2007, when the group took control from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank. The two groups have had no success in creating a unity government over the past 15 years, despite repeated attempts, weakening the Palestinian resistance and further disenfranchising ordinary Palestinians. Although Fatah and Hamas agreed to hold elections in 2021, which would be the first since 2006, those elections have been postponed indefinitely.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade Could Make Maternal Mortality Even Worse

“Giving birth in the U.S. is already far more dangerous than in other wealthy countries. Ending the protections of Roe v. Wade — the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to abortion — could make it even more so.

Multiple studies have found that the states that already have the tightest restrictions on abortion also have the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. And that correlation stubbornly persists even after researchers account for some of the other differences between states, like racial demographics and health care policy. Some researchers think that abortion restrictions are part of the reason why pregnancy and childbirth are so much more dangerous in the U.S. — even for people who never wanted an abortion to begin with.

This data could just be a statistical red herring. But there are ways abortion restrictions could kill people, both directly and indirectly. And scientists say these correlations point toward dangerous disparities in health care access in the U.S. — not just in terms of who can get an abortion, but also in terms of who can get preventative care while pregnant, or even before.”

“Carrying an unplanned pregnancy involves shouldering increased risks of depression, preterm birth, lower birth weight and other complications.”

“Recently released government data shows that 861 women died from causes related to pregnancy and birth in 2020, up from 754 the year before. In population-level terms, the maternal mortality rate in 2020 was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S., compared with 3.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in Germany in 2019 and 7.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in France in 2015. (The maternal mortality rate calculated by the CDC includes deaths from abortion-related complications, but the organization also calculates that subset separately. In 2019, the death rate from abortion in the United States was minuscule: 0.41 deaths per 100,000 legal abortions between 2013 and 2018.) Infants are also at higher risk of dying in the U.S. than in other wealthy countries. In 2020, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. was 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 1.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Finland and 2.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Spain.

Black Americans are nearly three times more likely than their white counterparts to die as a result of maternal complications, and the risk to Black babies is much higher as well. These disparities are so large that the states with the highest maternal mortality rates are also often states with large Black populations, and researchers have concluded that social factors like inequality and structural racism are playing a huge role in why pregnancy complications kill Americans.

But some researchers think that attempts to restrict abortion access are playing a part too.”

“The simplest explanation is just that giving birth is statistically more dangerous than having an abortion. If the states with the highest mortality rates are the also the ones banning abortion that means more births — and also more deaths.”

“efforts to reduce abortion access have often resulted in the closure of clinics like Planned Parenthood that offer a range of non-abortion-related services. Losing access to preventative health care puts people at a higher risk for all kinds of illnesses that can later cause pregnancy complications. And this effect means the impacts of abortion restriction can overlap and build on the social inequalities that are already harming Black people and babies.”

Suicide Prevention Could Prevent Mass Shootings

“Even once you identify some details that many of the attackers have in common, such a large swath of the population shares these traits that the “profile” is fairly useless for prevention. Red flag laws circumvent that problem by focusing less on a type of person and more on a type of emotional and situational crisis — where the people involved aren’t necessarily “bad guys” but troubled individuals in need of help. Gill thinks of it as a public health approach, analogous to the way we treat physical health problems that are hard to profile.

“We know that raised cholesterol leads to heart problems. We don’t have the ability to predict who in the general population who already has raised cholesterol will go on to have a heart attack. So we put in place prevention policies to try to decrease cholesterol in the whole ‘at risk’ community,” he said.

For the researchers who study mass violence, what’s appealing about red flag laws is that these rules have the potential to shift the emphasis from a cut-and-dried checklist of dangerous traits to a more nuanced system that accounts for a person’s big-picture emotional state.”

“these researchers supported red flag laws because they could create a clear plan of action for friends and family concerned about a loved one’s combination of emotional crisis and violent threats. It creates a place to take concerns, a system to evaluate those concerns and a means of mitigating them. That’s particularly true, researchers said, if national red flag laws are set up so that the system isn’t punitive. Ideally, the process would focus on helping a person get through to the other side of an emotional crisis rather than putting them in jail. It’s also important, the researchers said, to make sure the laws are focused on professional evaluations of overall behavior, not checklists.”

“there’s some evidence this could work. An analysis of records from California, where one of the first red flag laws was enacted in 2016, found at least 21 cases where the laws had been used specifically because people around a person were worried about their potential to commit a mass shooting. As of 2019, none of those people had followed through on that potential. It’s impossible to know, however, how those risks would have played out if the red flag hadn’t been there.

But if those parts work together the way they should, then red flag laws really could be a useful tool for combating the segment of mass shootings that function like very public, violent suicides. “There’s an important piece when we interviewed school shooters and active threat cases,” Randazzo said. “They feel very strongly about two things: They have to carry out the violence, they have no options left, but they also don’t want to do it and hope someone will stop them.””

What Ireland’s Past Can Tell Us About A Post-Roe America

“Ireland’s laws against abortion were some of the most restrictive in the world.2 From 1983 to 2018, “the right to life of the unborn” was equal to the “right to life of the mother,” and the state was empowered to “defend and vindicate that right.” This was enshrined in the Irish Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which two-thirds of voters approved in a 1983 referendum. Furthermore, under Irish law, performing or obtaining an abortion was punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Of course, this didn’t stop abortions in Ireland. Abortions happened anyway, both abroad and underground. But the fact that they still happened — and that they were still in demand — didn’t make the effort to legalize them any easier. It took another 35 years for abortion to become legal in Ireland — and a steady stream of activism and high-profile stories of suffering for abortion rights to expand.”

“It took almost a decade for the broader Irish public to become aware of the dire consequences faced by those who are denied abortions. In 1991, a 14-year-old girl was raped by the father of one of her friends. The attorney general filed an injunction prohibiting her and her parents from traveling to England to seek an abortion because the law compelled the state to protect the life of the fetus. During that time, the girl was expressing suicidal thoughts, and a clinical psychologist testified in a court hearing that the girl was at risk of killing herself; ultimately, the Irish Supreme Court decided to set aside the initial court ruling, thus allowing the girl to get an abortion because there was a real threat of suicide.”

“If Ireland is any example, a lot more women in America will have to die or experience mental-health issues before attitudes toward abortion care dramatically shift.”