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Younger people are dying in rich countries—but why?

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Why are younger people suddenly starting to die—even in wealthy countries?

There’s been a steep increase in the rate of deaths in the 25 to 44 age group in the US—and it’s even outstripping rates in countries in Central and Eastern Europe, which was recording high rates of working-age mortality in the 1990s.

Compared to other high-income countries, the mortality rate among the younger age group was up to 2.5 times greater in the US.

Although the sudden increase is a mystery, researchers at the University of Oxford say it can partly be explained by transport accidents, homicide, suicide and drug overdoses.  Drug-related deaths increased 10-fold between 2000 and 2019 in the US, and many are the result of opioid addiction.

The phenomenon is also being seen in other high-income countries.  Midlife mortality among the 45-54 age group is increasing, while death rates among the 25–54-year-olds has stayed around the same, in the UK.  The increase can mainly be explained by a rise in cardiovascular disease and cancer, and drug deaths.

Mortality rates among the 25- to 44-year-olds in Canada has also risen since 2013. 

The study didn’t cover the years of the Covid-19 epidemic or the roll out of the mRNA drugs, which some researchers are linking to a rise in cases of cancer and myocarditis, or heart inflammation, among younger people.

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International Journal of Epidemiology, 2024; 53: doi: 10.1093/ije/dyae024
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