Record-Highs in U.S. Death Rates from Suicide, Alcohol and Drug Overdose as Businesses Struggle to Provide Healthcare to Employees

Andrea Image
June 13,2019

The rates of suicide, drug and alcohol-related deaths are the highest they’ve been since records began. The Commonwealth Fund report released on Wednesday raises concerns over U.S. citizens’ mental health.

The report covered all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The researchers performed complex, multi-factor analyses in their search for the cause of these alarming death rates. As many as 47 different factors were analyzed over a five-year period, some of which included the growing burden of working families, insurance coverage, obesity, and even smoking. The biggest problem, however, turned out to be the rising cost of healthcare and poor healthcare coverage.

The newest data on these aptly named “deaths of despair” casts a shadow on the citizens’ right to the pursuit of happiness. The number of people who are able to afford proper medical care continues to drop, even among the employed. In the 2019 Silicon Valley Bank U.S. Startup Outlook report, startup owners cited healthcare costs as the second most troubling public policy concern, at 44%.

As data from the Commonwealth Fund report indicates, business owners’ inability to afford health insurance for either themselves or their employees can have grave consequences on large groups of people, even entire communities. Still, even though the average rates are troubling, rising suicide rates and the opioid crisis show striking regional disparities.

The ongoing opioid crisis has hit a number of states in The Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic region and, New England hard. In West Virginia, the drug OD death rates amounted to more than double the national average in 2017. That’s 57.8 deaths per 100,000 residents. Ohio was the follow up with 46.3 drug-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The next highest drug OD death rates were noticed in the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Delaware, and New Hampshire. As for suicide and alcohol-related deaths, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oregon, Montana, and the Dakotas had the highest death rates.

On the bright side, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, Connecticut, and Vermont ranked the highest in health rankings. Arkansas, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi showed the lowest health rankings in all 50 states.

The most telling difference between said states, according to the CF report, was the way they handle health care and coverage. The inability to afford proper psychiatric assistance, time in a rehab center, or even healthcare coverage in broader terms results in significantly higher suicide rates and opioid-related deaths.

All five of the 17 states that did not offer access to Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act had the highest rates of uninsured adults.

The most common reasons Americans cite as the leading cause of stress is healthcare (43%)  and the economy, at (35%) according to the 2017 Stress of America, the State of Our Nation report. Around 28% of U.S. adults claimed that high taxes were the highest source of stress, followed by unemployment and low wages at 22%.

With healthcare costs going up, Medicaid has become a necessity for many U.S. citizens. At 4%, Massachusetts, which expanded access to Medicaid, had the lowest rate of uninsured adults while Texas, which declined to do so, had the highest rate of 24%. The National Center for Health Statistics found that 12.7% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 took antidepressants.

Given the significant regional differences in all deaths of despair, any incentives and efforts to combat the epidemic ought to be tailored to local circumstances, the Commonwealth Fund report authors concluded.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.

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