In an alarming new study, researchers found that deaths among 25–64-year-olds have increased the most among whites and American Indians/Alaska Natives, when compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
There were an estimated 111,000 excess premature deaths among whites and 6,000 among American Indians/Alaska Natives from 2000 to 2014.
The highest increase in premature death rate was specifically among women aged 25–30 in both racial groups. When they examined the annual mortality rates among 30-year-olds, they found a 2.3% increase in white women, a 0.6% increase in white men, a 4.3% increase for American Indian/Alaska Native women, and a 1.9% increase among American Indian/Alaska Native men.
Still, the absolute premature mortality rate is highest for American Indians/Alaska Natives and blacks.
According to the study, the change in rates for these groups can be attributed to a drastic increase in suicides, liver disease, and accidental deaths from drug overdoses.
In contrast, the premature death rate has declined substantially among Hispanics, blacks, and Asian/Pacific Islanders.
Overall, the increase in premature death rates in the US is still "extremely unusual" for high-income countries.
"In addition to continued efforts against cancer, heart disease, and HIV, we need to target these emerging causes of death, namely drug overdoses, suicide, and liver disease," Shiels said.
The NIH reported that it hopes to use these findings to target prevention and surveillance efforts and help those groups in greatest need.
"There's a need for aggressive public health efforts to prevent premature mortality and expand medical care, especially for substance use disorders and mental illness," Shiels said.