Home » In conservative states, people die younger | Boing Boing

In conservative states, people die younger | Boing Boing

As reported in The Guardian, a new study correlates death rates by age to the conservative politics of red states. Published in Plos One, an online open-access peer-reviewed journal, and titled “U.S. state policy contexts and mortality of working-age adults,” these highlights are alarming when the data is disaggregated. Correlating conservative policies, ideologies, and laws with increased mortality rates, living in a red state can kill you faster, i.e., younger.

Punitive policies based on means-tested logics of punishment and vengeance, limited access to health care, urban zoning that aggregates polluting industries in specific neighborhoods, over-policing, right-to-work laws, under-funded public education, and generally ideologies that demand the evisceration of spending on the public, can lead to increased levels of mortality and earlier death.

The research team that published the study concluded, “The large and growing mortality disadvantage of working-age U.S. adults may partly reflect changes in state policy contexts that have occurred in recent decades. Policies that promote gun safety, environmental protections, labor (e.g., minimum wage, paid leave), progressive taxation, and tobacco control are among the potentially important policy opportunities to address increasing working-age mortality at the macrostructural level. The health gains from such policies offer potential collateral benefits to families, the economy, workers, and the health care system. More studies are needed to assess how the increasing bundling of state policies into either left-leaning or right-leaning has affected the divergence in population health and mortality across U.S. states.”

This is an extensive study, and yet what I most appreciate about the publication are the sections on limitations, where the authors are upfront about areas that need more focus and new areas of research that could shed more light on the relationship between social policies and life expectancy.
Consider the contemporary and historical implications of this research. First, on the upcoming elections in the US, The Guardian reports, “With federal and state midterm elections less than two weeks away, increased social spending in legislation passed by Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration has become a key issue in voters’ minds. Joe Biden and other senior Democrats have sought to emphasise the success and necessity of such measures. But Republicans, who have presented such measures as irresponsible and contributing to inflation, are poised to retake the House and perhaps the Senate.”

Now, consider the historical implications of this research: people living in red states, states that are governed by politicians whose ideologies lead them to vote against any expenditure on the public, in turn preferring the privatization of life, might have been living under these conditions of premature death for longer than we have the data to demonstrate – yet.


November 2022