Here’s a question begging for an answer: why are so many white women drinking themselves to death? The Washington Post reports the facts and, perhaps sagely, does not attempt to offer a solution. By all appearances white women, especially rural white women and especially college educated white women do not have it so good.
Apparently, white women have suffered the most during the past eight years.
The Post asks the question:
Why, after 50 years of unabated progress in life expectancy for every conceivable group of Americans – men, women, young, old, rich, poor, high-school dropouts, college graduates, rural, urban, white, black, Hispanic or Asian — had one demographic group in the last decade experienced a significant increase in premature deaths? Why were so many white women reporting precipitous drops in health, mental health, comfort and mobility during their working-age prime? Why, over the last eight years alone, had more than 300,000 of those women essentially chosen to poison themselves?
The Post also notes:
White women between 25 and 55 have been dying at accelerating rates over the past decade, a spike in mortality not seen since the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. According to recent studies of death certificates, the trend is worse for women in the center of the United States, worse still in rural areas, and worst of all for those in the lower middle class. Drug and alcohol overdose rates for working-age white women have quadrupled. Suicides are up by as much as 50 percent.
But, the situation really goes back to around the turn of the millennium. While the death rates for other groups diminish, those of white women increase. In another story the Post offers the statistics:
Drinking is killing twice as many middle-aged white women as it did 18 years ago.
Generally, middle age (age 35 to 54) is not the time to die in modern societies. It is past teenage dangers, before the serious perils of age, and improved medical care and public-health campaigns are keeping more people alive.
So why are middle-aged white women dying more often even while death rates for other groups continue to go down? What are white women doing that is so different?
Strangely, college educated white women drink more than do women with some college and even more than women who have had a high school education:
One interesting twist that we’ll come back to shortly is that women with at least a four-year college degree report drinking more often than women without college degrees. Thirty-one percent of the women with a college degree reported drinking multiple days a week, compared with 21 percent of women with some college and 14 percent of women with a high-school education or less.
Yet, high school educated women are more likely to binge drink:
Scientists say that heavy drinking — many drinks at a time — can be more dangerous than regular drinking. One-third of white women reported “binge” drinking — having at least four drinks in two hours.
While women with college degrees drink more frequently, women with only a high-school education are more likely to say they binge drink.
What does it all mean? No one seems to know. Surely, the media will line up the usual suspects: insufficient mental health treatment, social media, and Fox News. And yet, one suspects that the phenomenon signals a fraying social fabric, a loss of national pride, a confusion over social roles coupled with economic decline.
Psychiatrists will say—reasonably-- that these women are self-medicating. What is so seriously wrong with their lives or with the nation that they are drinking themselves to death?