Deaths of Despair in Pennsylvania and Beyond: A Demographer’s Take on Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Mortality in Small City and Rural America

Americans are killing themselves at an alarming rate. Since 1999, nearly 2 million people living in the U.S. died from causes related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Nationwide, the mortality rate from drug poisoning, alcohol poisoning, and suicide has increased by 55 percent since 1999. Most of this increase was driven by a surge in prescription opioid and heroin overdoses, but overdoses from other drugs, suicides by means other than drugs (especially guns), and alcohol-induced deaths also increased over this period. Particularly striking is that mortality from drugs, alcohol, and suicide has increased during a period of declining mortality for other major causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, most cancers, and motor vehicle accidents. The highest rates are among young and middle-aged non-Hispanic white males, especially those living in nonmetropolitan areas, but rates are rising fastest among white females. This webinar will describe trends in drug, alcohol, and suicide mortality in the U.S., explore some of the potential explanations for why rates have increased over the past 2 decades and why these deaths are more prevalent in certain geographic areas, and discuss what it will take to counter these trends. The webinar will also explore the role that community-level illness and despair played in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

Presented by: Shannon Monnat, an Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology, Demography, and Sociology and a Research Associate in the Population Research Institute at Penn State. She is also a Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Her research explores how economic, social, institutional, and policy factors are related to health and health disparities in the U.S.

There is no registration and no fee for attending this webinar.

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The webinar will be recorded and archived at

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