Samuel Preston, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology University of Pennsylvania 

Drug Overdoses and Mental Disorders Tied to Drop in Longevity in US Interview with:

Samuel Preston, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology University of Pennsylvania 

Dr. Preston

Samuel Preston, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
University of Pennsylvania What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Life expectancy at birth in the United States is low by international standards and has been declining in recent years. Our study aimed to identify how these trends differed by age, sex, cause of death, metropolitan status, and region.

We found that, over the period 2009-11 to 2014-16, mortality rose at ages 25-44 in large metropolitan areas and their suburbs as well as in smaller metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas. Mortality at ages 45-64 also rose in all of these areas except large metropolitan areas. These were the ages responsible for declining life expectancy.

Changes in life expectancy were particularly adverse for non-metropolitan areas and for women. The metropolitan distinctions in mortality changes were similar from region to region.

The cause of death contributing most strongly to mortality declines was drug overdose for males and mental and nervous system disorders for women. What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Mortality in the working ages has been rising in the United States, particularly in non-metropolitan regions. These areas deserve special attention in public health efforts. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

 Response: Identifying reasons for the poor U.S. performance in mortality, especially in the working ages and non-metropolitan areas, is of critical importance. Areas to be investigated include job losses in manufacturing and their mental health consequences, supply and demand features of the drug epidemic, the rise in obesity, and changing migration patterns.


Irma T. Elo, Arun S. Hendi, Jessica Y. Ho, Yana C. Vierboom, Samuel H. Preston. Trends in Non-Hispanic White Mortality in the United States by Metropolitan-Nonmetropolitan Status and Region, 1990-2016. Population and Development Review, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/padr.12249

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Last Updated on July 15, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD