According to findings at Columbia University, hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year because they make the fatal mistake of being uneducated, of being individually poor, of living in an impoverished neighborhood, of being short on social support, or of being racially segregated. Columbia’s researchers are so sure of their conclusions that they’ve assigned body counts to each of these societal death factors. The numbers are ugly.
Here’s what [researchers] found: approximately 245,000 deaths in the United States in 2000 were attributable to low education; 176,000 to racial segregation; 162,000 to low social support; 133,000 to individual-level poverty; 119,000 to income inequality; and 39,000 to area-level (neighborhood) poverty.
How does that compute in the grand scheme of things? The number of deaths attributable to low education is actually higher than the number caused by heart attacks (192,898), which were the leading cause of death in the U.S. in the year 2000. The number of deaths attributable to racial segregation is also higher than the number of deaths from stroke (167,661), the third leading cause of death in 2000, and the number of deaths attributable to low social support is comparable to deaths from lung cancer (155,521).
The calculations that produced these dire statistics are moderately complex, but it’s both intuitive and reasonable to assume that shoddy health care and a preponderance of fatty food outlets, among various other environmental inequalities, are no friends of extended life expectancy.
As a nation, we occasionally congratulate ourselves on our progress in civil rights and distribution of resources and opportunities. The Columbia tallies quantify just how much remains to be done.
Thanks to Boing Boing for the tip.