The diseases of despair are deaths by suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis.
“Mortality from deaths of despair far surpasses anything seen in America since the dawn of the twentieth century. (The trend for middle-aged whites reveals a more dramatic rise but only goes back continuously to 1959.) The recent increase has primarily been driven by an unprecedented epidemic of drug overdoses, but even excluding those deaths, the combined mortality rate from suicides and alcohol-related deaths is higher than at any point in more than 100 years. Suicides have not been so common since 1938, and one has to go back to the 1910s to find mortality from alcohol-related deaths as high as today’s.“–Source
All these deaths will have implications for generations.
Children are growing up without one or both parents, parents are struggling from loss of a child. Teens are going to far more funerals than is normal for their peers, siblings, spouses are suffering these losses as acutely. Studies have shown, and I’ve heard stories of unresolved loss leading to substance misuse and suicide. Our healthcare system needs to reflect the changes in our culture to manage issues we’ve swept into the corner for decades.
The nationwide opioid epidemic has led to a sharp increase in the death rate for overdoses by teens and young adults. So Gen Z and millennials, which would normally represent our economic future, are becoming a missing generation. The economic implications are staggering as workplace environments are rarely prepared for the ripple effect and loss of productivity as a result of deaths of despair.
How is it affecting our workforce and productivity now? How will that impact it in the future? How can community and workforce culture adapt to these changes?
Given the fact that 80% of all who die by suicide are in the workforce, and that suicide has increased by 34% since 2000, we need companies to integrate strategies to educate and support employees. For that to happen, workplace cultures need to evolve to a more open and empathetic leadership to meet the needs of today’s workforce.