February 8, 2023

The collapse of religion in the US may be fueling a wave of suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse deaths among the white working class, a new report claims.

Research led by Wellesley College in Massachusetts found a marked increase in ‘deaths of despair’, or deaths from conditions such as alcoholism and opioid abuse, which are rooted in poor mental health.

Using official death statistics and surveyed church attendance estimates, they found that these deaths began to rise in the 1970s, just as church attendance began to fall.

Fewer Americans are going to church now than before the pandemic, and weekly attendance has fallen 10 percent in recent years.

The graph above shows the death rate from suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol abuse per 100,000 people (red line). It also shows the proportion of people who attend church once a week (blue line). Data is for middle-aged white adults who did not attend college.

The Graphs Above Show Religious Adherence Among Different Age Groups From 1979 To The Early 2000S. It Reveals A Drop In Religion In The Us Population.

The graphs above show religious adherence among different age groups from 1979 to the early 2000s. It reveals a drop in religion in the US population.

The researchers, who published the findings as a working paper with the National Bureau of Economic Research, collected data on deaths from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and on religiosity from the General Social Survey (GSS).

The GSS is a biennial survey that measures Americans on their religion and general social attitude.

The research team looked at the more than one million deaths from alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, and suicide from the 1970s through the early 2000s across the United States.

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They also looked at the proportion of Americans who attended church weekly during the same period.

The research focused on middle-aged white adults who did not go to college because deaths from despair rose in this group earlier than in other demographic groups.

“The increase in mortality was preceded by a decrease in religiosity among the less educated white middle-aged demographic,” the researchers wrote.

‘This change in religious practice was big, it is a phenomenon well known to be related to health and well-being.

“(It was also) driven by the same group whose mortality subsequently began to rise and occurred just before the mortality rise.”

This Graph Compares Church Attendance With The Rate Of Deaths From Suicide, Poisoning, And Drug Use In 24 Selected Us States In The Late 1970S. It Shows That States With Less Church Attendance Had Much Higher Rates.

This graph compares church attendance with the rate of deaths from suicide, poisoning, and drug use in 24 selected US states in the late 1970s. It shows that states with less church attendance had much higher rates.

They noted, however, that the study was observational and could not prove that less frequent church attendance led to the increase.

Other factors, such as the opioid epidemic, could be responsible.

The rate of “deaths of despair” among white middle-aged adults, ages 45 to 64, fell 40 percent between 1979 and 1991, on a steady downward trajectory.

But the decline stalled, before beginning to reverse in 1995.

By the last year of the study, 2002, the rate had risen 20 percent from its lowest point, reaching levels not seen since the 1980s.

At the same time, the proportion of middle-aged American adults who attended church each week declined.

It fell by almost half in 12 years, from 28 to 16 percent in 1997.

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The researchers suggested that when people stopped attending church they lost the ‘positive external benefits’ of being part of a religious community.

This may have included social support as well as feelings of companionship.

They also suggested that when so many people stopped attending church, some religious groups may have collapsed as well, leaving them unable to support members.

Other factors that might have driven the rise include the opioid epidemic, the researchers noted.

But they said that OxyContin, one of the key drivers, became unavailable in the United States until death rates plateaued.

The opioid epidemic in the United States took off after 2015 and has now reached record levels in the country.

The researchers noted: ‘In recent decades, death rates from poisoning, suicide, and alcoholic liver disease have increased dramatically in the United States.

“We show that these ‘desperation deaths’ began to increase relative to the trend in the early 1990s, that this increase was preceded by a decline in religious participation, and that middle-aged white Americans drove both trends.”

They add: “Our findings show that social factors, such as organized religion, may play an important role in understanding ‘despair deaths.’

They said that people had begun to leave the church because religion had become more closely associated with politics.

They write: ‘This decline was driven in important ways by responses to changes in the US political landscape in the 1980s, as religious and political affiliation became much more highly correlated than before.’

The researchers added that the repeal of the blue laws, which prohibited work and commerce on Sundays, also played a role.

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Many were in place in the mid-20th century, but most have now been removed, opening up trade and work on the traditional ‘day of rest’.

The suicide rate in the United States increased in 2021, according to the figures

An American took their own life every 10 minutes last year as suicide rates rose in the US, data reveals.

Statistics showed that 47,644 Americans died by suicide in 2021, up four percent from the previous 12 months and the second highest number in the past decade.

The figures follow a two-year decline in suicide rates.

The group most likely to take their own lives were men over the age of 75, while young men ages 18 to 24 experienced the steepest increase, 8 percent in one year.

Experts today described the rise as “disappointing” but nothing like the “big escalation” predicted when the Covid pandemic hit.

They blamed a combination of factors including worsening mental health, higher gun ownership rates and job losses due to Covid, among other factors.

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The White House is currently bolstering the nation’s mental health services with $1 billion over five years to improve offerings in schools and for children struggling with psychological problems in the community.

The data is provisional, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it probably already included nearly all suicides from last year.