Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Death Rate Improvements for Whites Have Stalled

Whites of all ages are dying earlier than historical trends would have predicted.
Male patient in gown waiting on exam table
Photographer: Getty Images

The health gains that continue to drive down death rates in most of the developed world have stalled for white Americans.

They’re dying younger—and in greater numbers—than historical trends would predict. The death rate for whites aged 45 to 54 declined by about 1.8 percent annually from 1983 to 1998, but it increased by 0.6 percent annually from 1999 to 2014. While an increase in drug overdoses and suicides accounts for part of the reversal, progress on reducing deaths from such causes as heart disease and cancer appears to be stagnating for white adults in the 21st century, according to an analysis from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for greater health-care access.