'Sea of Despair' Engulfs White Working Class Americans: Study

Low levels of education and employment are likely the root causes of rising rates of sickness and early death among white working class Americans, according to a new study.

The researchers said that young adults who face those two challenges are at increased long-term risk for family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other health issues that form a "sea of despair," the Washington Post reported.

In 2015, a study by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton said the death rate of middle-aged white Americans had risen steadily since 1999 in comparison with the death rates among blacks and Hispanic Americans, and Europeans.

In their new study, the Princeton professors analyzed two more years of data and found that the death rate among white Americans is still on the rise nearly everywhere in the nation, the Post reported.

Education is a major factor, according to the new study. Americans with a college degree are happier and healthier than those with only some college, who in turn are much better off than those without any college education.

Less-educated white Americans who struggle to find a job in early adulthood are likely to face a "cumulative disadvantage" over time, experiencing health and personal struggles that often lead to drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide, the researchers suggested.

"Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline," the study authors wrote, the Post reported.

The study points to a "sea of despair" across America, Case said in a teleconference with reporters this week.

The researchers will present their study on Friday at the Brookings Institution, the Post reported.

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