How Have Changes in the Labor Market Contributed to Increases in Suicide and Drug Poisoning Deaths among Men in the United States?




Carroll, Jamie M.
Duncombe, Alicia
Mueller, Anna S.
Muller, Chandra

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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center



Over the last two decades, deaths from suicide and drug poisoning have risen rapidly for American men without a college degree. Changes in the U.S. labor market likely play a central role in these mortality patterns. This changing labor market – particularly the loss of good-paying blue-collar jobs – can feed into feelings of hopelessness and despair which in turn increase vulnerability to suicide and drug poisoning deaths. Many adolescents growing up in the 1970s expected to hold blue-collar jobs that would support middle-class lifestyles but found that these jobs had largely disappeared when they reached adulthood. Using data from a large, nationally‐representative sample of students who were in high school in 1980, PRC researcher Jamie Carroll, PRC faculty scholar Chandra Muller, and colleagues, find that men who expected to work in occupations that later declined in labor market share and economic value have increased risks of suicide and drug poisoning deaths in adulthood. They advocate for educational training in flexible skills and adaptability as important tools for suicide and drug abuse prevention.

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