April 20, 2006

YOU LIVE AWHILE IN A PURITAN NATION:

Plunge in death rate raises eyebrows (Mike Stobbe, 4/20/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Preliminary government figures released yesterday showed that the annual number of deaths in the United States dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004, the biggest decline in nearly 70 years.

The 2 percent decrease, reported by the National Center for Health Statistics, comes as a surprise to many because the United States is growing in population, aging and getting fatter. In fact, some specialists said, they suspect the numbers may not hold up when a final report is released later this year.

Nevertheless, center officials said the statistics, based on a review of about 90 percent of death records reported in all 50 states in 2004, were consistent across the country and were deemed solid enough to report.

The center said drops in the death rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke accounted for most of the decline.

Hardly surprising that plummeting rates of smoking -- together with the decades long war on drink and drugs -- should yield such numbers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2006 9:35 AM
Comments

I blame global warming.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at April 20, 2006 10:15 AM

I couldn't help thinking of the Onion article of a few years back: "Mortality rate holds steady at 100%"

Posted by: ted welter at April 20, 2006 10:41 AM

The AP should adopt a permanent headline: "Good News Surprising, Probably Untrue."

Posted by: Casey Abell at April 20, 2006 12:24 PM

"This just in, Bush still evil, film at 11."

Posted by: Bryan at April 20, 2006 12:52 PM

Oh come on, what does the war on drugs have to do with this? The number of people who die from illegal drugs is a tiny fraction of all deaths: about .1%, or roughly the number of people who die from drowning.

And, of course, you should consider the number of deaths caused by the war on drugs itself: dealers shooting each other over turf. Notice how rarely alcohol dealers kill each other since the end of Prohibition?

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 20, 2006 5:38 PM

Papaya:

Those numbers are meaningless. Mickey Mantle didn't die an alcohol-induced death either.

The ill health effects of repealing Prohibition more than outweighed the few shootings saved.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2006 5:51 PM

Oh sure, what do those CDC fakers know about statistics for causes of death? They're just a bunch of academics, probably intellectuals to boot!

Even if the official numbers are somehow underreported, the fact remains that the death rate for illegal drugs has slowly crept up over the course of the war on drugs, so you don't really have any evidence that the drop in the death rate has anything whatsoever to do with the war on drugs.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 20, 2006 7:38 PM

Those aren't death rates you cited.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2006 8:05 PM

True, but does that mean your argument is that a slow increase in the number of deaths attributed to illegal drugs over recent decades somehow shows that the war on drugs has lowered the death rate? Come on now, admit you were just talking out of your hat.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 20, 2006 11:15 PM

I meant exactly what I said, that it's no surprise that the successful war on tobacco, drugs, and alcohol has had a beneficial effect on the number of deaths.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2006 11:22 PM

I know you mean it, but the fact that such a correlation would fit your beliefs doesn't make it so. I'm just saying that 1) the number of deaths from illegal drugs is so small that I don't think it has any discernable effect on the overall death rate, and 2) all the statistics I can find show slightly rising number of deaths over the last few decades, which suggests zero correlation (or perhaps a negative one) between the lower death rate and the war on drugs. If you've got something other than handwaving to back up your position, let's see it.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 21, 2006 2:20 AM

insider.washingtontimes.com/articles/normal.php?StoryID=20060420-121633-9921r

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2006 7:25 AM

I thought the point was that because of public awareness of the health risks involved with drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse that fewer people were using and abusing these things and thus, fewer people were dying from their ill effects?

Posted by: sharon at April 21, 2006 11:29 AM

We always knew the risks--the resurgence of puritanism and the accompanying social opprobrium has driven usage down.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2006 1:06 PM

OJ, there's nothing at all in your linked article about the war on drugs or illegal drugs.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 21, 2006 11:09 PM

all the statistics I can find show slightly rising number of deaths over the last few decades, which suggests zero correlation (or perhaps a negative one) between the lower death rate and the war on drugs.

is the opposite of the truth

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2006 11:35 PM

That may be, but all I'm asking is that you provide some evidence for your position, and you haven't.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 22, 2006 1:23 PM

Declining rates of alcohol, tobacco and drug use have accompanied lenghening life spans and declining death rates. I've suggested that isn't surprising to any mildly atttentive and rational observer. You're surprised.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2006 4:42 PM

I'm more attentive and rational on this than you are, because I know that the number of illegal-drug-linked deaths is a tiny fraction of all deaths. I also know the war on drugs doesn't seem to have caused a decline in death rates caused by drugs. So, I can put that together and see that crediting the war on drugs with a decline in the death rate is nonsense. A decline in smoking? Sure. The crackdown on drunk driving? Perhaps. A greater health consciousness? Probably. But the war on drugs? Nope.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 22, 2006 11:29 PM

So you've got a whole series of behavior that destroy immune systems and cause deletirious health effects, all of which have been declining thanks to publuc efforts but you choose to believe one hasn't mattered. that's just ideology.

Posted by: oj at April 22, 2006 11:38 PM

Sorry, I think it's your ideology that's overrunning your logic here. You are saying that because illegal drugs are unhealthy, and there's a war on illegal drugs, then if the death rate goes down it's due to the war on drugs. I shouldn't have to point out the logical fallacy there.

Your claim could be true, of course. All you have to show is that there's been a decline in the death rate associated with illegal drugs, that the numbers involved are large enough to make a statistical difference in the death rate, and that this decline is at least correlated with the war on drugs. But you've shown none of those things, and in fact the evidence I've Googled seems to show that none of those things are the case.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 24, 2006 11:40 AM

No. Logically all that matters is that the decline in alcohol, tobacco, and drug use has been accompanied by improvements in health and declining death rates. No logical person would be surprised by that fact.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 11:50 AM
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