Death by what?

See the original New York Times report at here.

The news earlier this week was startling. Depressing, actually.

“Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds,” The New York Times headline read.

Where the number fell for other racial and ethnic groups, the mortality rate for white Americans, ages 45 to 54 years old with a high school education or less, increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2014, according to a November 2 study by a pair of Princeton economists.

So what's killing them? Not what you'd expect. Not heart disease. Not diabetes. No, not even cancer.

Rather, Angus Deaton and Anne Case concluded after studying data via various sources, including the Centers for Disease Prevention, this rise in the death rate is due to suicide and substance abuse.

White, poorly educated middle-aged Americans are increasingly dying by their own hands. The findings are significant. And significantly alarming. To put it into perspective: Mortality rates for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics in the United States continued to decline during the same period.

“Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this,” Deaton concluded.

On the one hand it's difficult to feel too sorry for a demographic that, seemingly, should be ahead of the rat race—not handicapping its own chances in it.

On the other hand, however, the data is indicative of bigger, more complex social problems that are rooted in the correlations between education, financial security, access and personal choices.

These are social problems that ultimately affect everyone regardless of age, race or ethnicity.