On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Fund released a report billed as a “scorecard” for the U.S.’s health systems. And it doesn’t look good.
Among the most troubling parts of the report is the fact that based off of data from 2017, deaths caused by drug overdose, alcohol, and suicide have reached an “all-time high,” NBC News reported. These so-called “deaths of despair” have risen nationally, but they affect different states in vastly different ways. For example, drug overdose deaths predictably hit hardest in areas affected by the opioid epidemic, mainly concentrated in the northeastern states. Midwestern states, meanwhile, have a higher rate of deaths by suicide or alcohol.
West Virginia and Ohio had the two highest rates of death by drug overdose — both states have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. And comparing between 2005 and 2017, West Virginia’s rate went up by 450 percent, while Ohio’s went up by 320.
The Commonwealth Fund states in their report that these dramatic rises in death rates are “another marker of complex socioeconomic and behavioral health problems across the nation.” They recommend increasing access to a drug that can save lives during an overdose, naloxone, and better legislating the prescription of opioids.
As a result of suicide, alcohol, and drugs becoming more prevalent problems, some states even have a decreasing life expectancy. As health care becomes more expensive, the report states, this presents an increasing problem for people who have trouble accessing health care because of their insurance. All in all, it paints a dire picture of our country’s health.