The Spike: The White Death and the Sixties
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Gary Venter: “A Quick Look at Cohort Effects in US Male Mortality”

Via Andrew Gelman, here’s a graph highlighting changes in male American mortality (all races) by year of birth. It shows a spectacular spike among later baby boomers in mortality.

I’ve been pointing out since November that the spike in increases in deaths by (especially) drug overdose, suicide, and alcoholism seem to be centered in whites who turned 18 in the late 1960s through the early 1980s: i.e., the long Sixties. I may be totally overlooking something, but it makes sense to me that your odds of dying of a heroin overdose in the 2000s are related to how many people you knew who were into drugs when you graduated from high school.

In contrast, the lucky duckies born in 1946 turned 18 in pre-Sixties 1964, which was a few years before the Drug Era really hit home across America.

Say you are a middle-aged man who has had a bad back for a long time. You got hooked pretty heavily on prescription painkillers so your doctor has finally cut you off. But now the pain is back. If you graduated from high school in 1964, you probably don’t have many friends your age who knew back then where to buy drugs. It would be kind of embarrassing to start randomly asking your old high school buddies about where to get heroin.

But if you graduated in 1975, you’d know a bunch of people from high school who, if they are still alive, know about drugs and might clue you in to where to get heroin.

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