The poor health of white middle-aged Americans is having a significant impact on the labor force, writes Alana Semeuls. Many experts, Semuels explains, have blamed a poor job market but new research indicates that poor health may be an overlooked cause.

Men aren’t working or looking for jobs because they’re sick, on pain pills, or abusing alcohol or drugs, research suggests.

Now, in a new paper, the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton explore why this particular demographic is so unhealthy: a lifetime of eroding economic opportunities.

“As the labor market turns against them, and the kinds of jobs they find get worse and worse for people without a college degree, that affects them in other ways too,” argue Case and Deaton.

While this may seem like a circular argument, says Semuels, what makes Case and Deaton’s paper stand out is “this idea that as people get older and their fates deviate more and more from those of their parents, they struggle to keep their lives together. The very act of doing worse than their parents’ generation” is “creating a sense of hopelessness, and as a result, they turn to risky behaviors such as overeating, alcohol abuse, or drug use.

Read more at The Atlantic

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