Mar 4, 2017 - Health

Opioid-related deaths linked to high unemployment rates

Frankie Leon / Flickr cc

A new study from economists at Indiana University and the University of Virginia has found that the economy has played an important role in the rise of the opioid epidemic — in which deaths from opioid overdoses have quadrupled among white people since 1999, per the Washington Post.

Alex Hollingsworth, Christopher J. Ruhm and Kosali Simon's analysis of health records from 1999-2014 found that rates of opioid deaths grew more quickly in counties where the unemployment rate climbed faster than average. A 1 percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate led to a 3.6% increase in the rate of fatal opioid overdoses, and a 7% increase in emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses.

Why it matters: The research tells us that places that better survived the Great Recession were more likely to resist the opioid epidemic, while places that suffered through the nation's economic downturn were more vulnerable to the drug.

(First sentence corrected to say economists from Indiana University.)

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