A recent Princeton study says that there is a disturbing trend on the rise. Apparently "death rates for white Americans without a college degree are on the rise, largely driven by increased rates of drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol use." While death rates are dropping in almost all categories and even nations, white, uneducated Americans are dying off faster than ever before. That's the numbers. What's the reason?
They're calling them "deaths of despair." It's not an income issue, they say. Mortality rates among others of the same income are dropping. It's not a global trend, as death rates among whites in other countries are falling. One wise fellow suggested it's likely because other countries provide universal health coverage. Um, okay. The authors of the study offered a preliminary guess that a "cumulative disadvantage over life, in the labor market, in marriage and child outcomes, and in health, is triggered by progressively worsening labor market opportunities at the time of entry for whites with low levels of education." That is, they aren't satisfied with the job market and can't get the jobs that others can so they're despondent and, thus, self-destructive. They suggest that current obesity rates are also part of this mindset.
I would have to disagree with the "wise fellow" from the Washington Post that suggested it's despondence over the lack of universal health coverage. I wouldn't disagree with the notion that it's a problem of despair, but I'm not sure it's because they're blue collar workers. I would suggest it's because our culture has worked so hard in the last 20 years to endorse and urge covetousness. "What?" you ask. Think about it. We had that whole "1%" thing where large numbers were protesting the fact that people were rich ... and they weren't. There has been this sharp rise in "socialism in America" where we more and more believe that we are owed stuff ... better stuff. Healthcare. Education. A living wage. And we will have it now! More young people no longer believe in a meritocracy where you earn what you get and get what you earn, but think they ought to just have it. Credit card debt is through the roof as we're all trying to get what we want rather than what we can afford. We are engulfed in covetousness. "You deserve" is our motto, and what goes after that is so widely variable as to be unbelievable. You deserve a break. You deserve a good cup of coffee. You deserve being happy. You deserve peace and love. You deserve to do what you want. You deserve success. It goes on and on. And it's not true. But we want it and others have it, so we covet it and when it looks like we can't get it, it's not pretty.
I am not here to fix the problems of society. I'm not here to correct the immoral covetousness of today anymore than anyone could fix the covetousness of yesteryear. We've long had this issue of "keeping up with the Joneses" and today's version is just that version on steroids where we covet as a virtue. What the world needs now is not better income equity and universal health coverage. What the world needs now is Christ. And what we -- we Christians -- need to be diligent to do is to learn to be content with what we have (Phil 4:11). Jesus told us, "Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:31-33) We need to avoid societal covetousness and seek the Lord first. (And a little hint: Don't ever demand from God what you deserve. I don't think you'd actually want that.)