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Direct Correlation Between Joblessness, Poverty, and Opioid Death Rates, New Study Shows

Sept. 28, 2017 (EIRNS)—In a recent study, Ohio State professors Mark Partridge and Mike Betz found a direct correlation between joblessness (and this includes low-paying, low-quality jobs as well) and the rate of opioid overdose deaths in rural Ohio. In 2015, there were 3,050 overdose deaths in Ohio. The professors made clear, however, that what is happening in rural Ohio is typical of the pattern in small towns and rural communities across the United States.

According to the Sept. 26 Record Herald, in a presentation Sept. 21 at the Farm Science Review forum near London, Ohio, "Despair in Rural America—Opioid Problem or Sympton," Betz pointed to recent research showing that for every 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate, the overdose death rate increases by 3.5 percent. The type of jobs that people have is also a factor, he added. The good manufacturing jobs that used to pay $25/hour no longer exist; they’ve been replaced by retail jobs that earn $12/hour or less. In the study he and his co-authors had conducted, Betz explained, they found that for every 1 percent decrease in wages, there is a 3.5-percent increase in overdose death rates. The availability of prescription opioid drugs compounds the problem.

For rural whites, the percentage is even higher: if there were a 3-percent decline in wages in the county, there could be an almost 15 percent increase in drug overdose deaths. Partridge calls this the "Depths of Despair." A recent study has shown that particularly among white middle-aged males, life expectancy is falling. Partridge also compared urban and rural suicide rates. The latter are about twice that of urban suicide rates for males and females. "This is a striking contrast that rural young people are killing themsleves at twice the rate than in urban areas," he said.

Since 1973, median household income has barely budged in the United States, Partridge reported, noting that the group that has suffered the most in terms of lack of growth has been white men. Relating this to the opioid crisis, he pointed out that people may have aspirations that they’ll do as well as their parents, but then those aspirations "are completely dashed, and it creates a lot of problems." People feel like failures, and this leads to drug abuse, he concluded.