In recent years, researchers have noticed a disturbing trend. The leading causes of death for people under the age of 50 are changing. In the past, it was ischaemic heart disease – heart attacks and associated conditions. But today, the main causes are much more sinister.
For instance, death certificate data suggests that natural causes were the leading cause of death for people between 35 and 49 was heart problems between 2001 and 2010. However, the narrative flipped after 2011, with suicides and poisoning with intent becoming the leading killers.
It wasn’t just this age group that saw an increase in deaths either. Men and women aged 20 to 34 also saw a massive increase in the rates of suicide. And now, these deaths represent around 22 percent of deaths in this age group.
The question for medics is what, if anything, they can do about it? Given the holistic nature of the problem, direct medical interventions are unlikely to be effective. It’s not just about providing treatment to at-risk groups, but also challenging society’s underlying assumptions and methods.
Take the notion that everyone should be successful. Philosophically, it’s impossible. Not everyone can be super successful and rich. That’s not how the world works. However, psychologically, that’s what many people believe. They think that they have to outshine everyone else. And when they don’t, they feel worthless.
The suicide data is particularly worrying, as this is rising sharply year-on-year. Why are so many young people choosing to take their own lives? Getting answers to this question will require a degree of soul searching and asking fundamental questions about how society is changing. The rate of suicide was dramatically lower twenty years ago for young people. But that’s changing. We need to figure out why.
Car accidents are another major cause of death and a leading reason why people go to a wrongful death lawyer. However, this is where there is some good news: the actual number of deaths is going down, despite the fact that there are more cars on the road and total mileage is rising.
Car accidents have fallen for several reasons. For one, society is more health and safety-conscious, and people are more mindful of their actions on the road. But there have also been considerable improvements in in-car safety technology. Modern vehicles, for instance, have electronic stability control and even automatic braking to prevent rear-end collisions. Further progress here seems inevitable as technology improves. Eventually, we could get to the point where road vehicle deaths become a rarity.
Accidental poisoning – usually from drug or alcohol consumption – is also on the rise. Western civilization has developed a high level of technology. But it has done comparatively little to explore the technology of the mind. Rising depression and anxiety rates are testaments to this. The result is more people turning to self-medication to manage their feelings and emotions, effectively numbing their minds. In some cases, this is leading to accidental overdoses.
Overall, we need a more holistic approach to health. However, without considerably societal change, such changes seem unlikely.