Giving Compass’ Take:
• Researchers are tracking the decline of hope in America using statistics including “deaths of despair” described as suicide, overdose, and poor health behaviors.
• How can philanthropy help to reverse this trend of despair? What organizations are already making progress on this issue?
One marker of this lost hope is the 15 percent of prime-age males who have dropped out of the labor force. For the purpose of calculating the headline unemployment rate, they have ceased even to be a statistic. Another is the surprising amount of support for an antiestablishment, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic political agenda intended to incite anger in lieu of proposing realistic remedies.
The starkest marker, though, is the rise of “deaths of despair” in the United States: preventable deaths due to suicide, opioid and other drug overdoses, and deaths related to poor health behaviors. The U.S. is the only rich country in the world where mortality rates are increasing rather than falling.
In recent work published in the Journal of Population Economics, Sergio Pinto and I explore the role of hope—or its absence—in explaining recent trends in premature mortality. We use metrics of well-being and ill-being from Gallup surveys and county-level Center for Disease Control data on deaths of despair.
Our metrics of desperation, stress, and worry map closely with trends in deaths of despair at the level of the individual, race, and place. The dimension of well-being that is most closely associated with higher mortality rates is lack of hope, a marker that is starkest among whites who have not completed college. Conversely, individuals and places with higher levels of hope, which tend to be urban and more racially diverse, display much lower levels of deaths of despair.
Read the full article about hope in America by Carol Graham at Brookings.
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