Recently, working-age Americans’ mortality has reversed its historic declines, largely due to lack of progress on heart disease, and rising deaths due to alcohol, suicide, and drug poisoning. A new study finds that from 1999 to 2019, mortality for adults ages 25-64 was lower in states with liberal policies, like Connecticut, and worse in conservative states.
Adults living in states with more conservative marijuana, but more liberal environmental, labor, gun safety, economic taxes, and tobacco taxes lived longer. Gun safety and suicide deaths were especially closely tied, as were labor policies and alcohol deaths, and economic and tobacco taxes and deaths from heart disease. The researchers estimate that in 2019, if all states adopted liberal policies, 171,030 deaths could have been prevented. Alternatively, if all states adopted conservative policies, 217,635 more lives would have been lost.
While Connecticut is more liberal among states in environmental, labor, economic tax, health & welfare, marijuana, and tobacco tax policy, we are about average in gun safety and criminal justice policies. In 2019, Connecticut deaths due to suicide, alcohol, and drugs was high and growing faster than other states.
Some researchers are suggesting that state political climates should be added to the list of social determinants of health. Lead author on the study noted, “If a state policy maker were to say to me, ‘it’s unfair to criticize my state because I have a low-educated, low income population,’ I would ask them, ‘why do you have a low-educated, low-income population?’” . . . . “It’s because of your policy environment.”
Health status is about more than healthcare, and we can do better.