A new study published by public health researchers from the University of Toronto suggests that rising short-term mortality rates of white Americans appear to be “driven principally by the anxiety of losing their social status.” The fear is unfounded as there’s been no evidence to indicate that they are worse off.
The data was collected from a social survey from 2000 to 2016.
Typically, mortality rates don’t shift drastically unless a catastrophic event happens within a society like an infectious disease epidemic, a major economic disaster or war.
However, “with significantly fewer white births and a rising number of deaths, natural increase (births minus deaths) actually ended in 2016. In that year, for the first time in U.S. history, data from the National Center for Health Statistics showed more white deaths than births in the United States,” according to a brief published by the Applied Population Lab.
Arjumand Siddiqi, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and lead author of the study, elaborated on the impact of her findings.
“For perhaps the first time, we’re suggesting that a widespread population health phenomenon can’t be explained by actual social or economic disadvantage,” she explained.
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Simply put, it has been driven by “a perceived threat to status,” Siddiqi said.
“The anxiety of whites is coming from a misperception that their dominant status in society is being threatened, which is manifesting in multiple forms of psychological and physiological stress,” she said.
Researchers suggest this type of perceived stress by whites is causing more instances of “deaths of despair,” or deaths caused by opioid use along with overdoses, suicides and heavy alcohol consumption.
This particular study also showed a rise in chronic diseases like hypertension and obesity from the stressors, but to a lesser extent.
The study also said that a common misconception among whites was that Black Americans have caught up to them economically.
“In fact, income inequality and other socioeconomic factors continue to affect Black Americans more unfavorably,” Sidiqqi said.
Data from the survey also revealed that President Donald Trump’s xenophobic agenda in his 2016 campaign contributed to white American fears. Voting for Trump was associated with concerns about growing racial diversity in the U.S. and a broader globalizing world, according to survey data.
Though the study confirmed that whites who weren’t educated beyond the high school level had the most negative outcomes, Sidiqqi’s findings indicate that whites were affected at every level of education.