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Geographic, Social Variances Tied to Higher Drug-Related Mortality

Economic, social conditions, and family distress tied to higher drug mortality rates

TUESDAY, March 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — County-level economic and other social conditions explain the geographic disparities in overdose rates across the country, according to a study published online March 26 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Shannon M. Monnat, Ph.D., from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York, used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Multiple-Cause of Death Files (2006 to 2015), U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development to model associations between county-level drug-related mortality rates and economic, social, and health care environments.

Monnat found that over the study period the average county-level age-adjusted drug-related mortality rate was 16.6 deaths per 100,000 population. However, there were substantial geographic disparities in rates. Average mortality rates were significantly higher in counties with greater economic and family distress and in counties economically dependent on mining, when controlling for demographic characteristics. In contrast, average mortality rates were significantly lower in counties with a larger presence of religious establishments, a greater percentage of recent in-migrants, and counties with economies reliant on public sector employment. There was no effect of health care supply factors on between-county disparities in mortality rates.

“Opioids are a symptom of much larger social and economic problems,” Monnat said in a statement. “Just as other chronic diseases have underlying social determinants, addiction is also a social disease.”

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