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Blind Spot

X pointed me to this news article reporting an increase in death rate among young adults in the United States:

Selon une enquête publiée le 26 janvier par la revue scientifique The Lancet, le taux de mortalité des jeunes Américains âgés de 25 à 35 ans a connu une progression entre 1999 et 2014, alors que ce taux n’a cessé de baisser dans l’ensemble des pays les plus riches depuis quarante ans. . . . Ce sont principalement les jeunes femmes blanches qui tirent les chiffres à la hausse . . . Ainsi, l’analyse des statistiques collectées auprès du National Center for Health Statistics, montre que le taux de mortalité des femmes blanches de 25 ans a connu une progression moyenne annuelle de 3 % pendant les quinze années prises en compte, et de 2,3 % pour la catégorie des trentenaires. Pour des garçons du même âge, la croissance annuelle du taux de mortalité s’élève à 1,9 %.

I ran this by Jonathan Auerbach to see what he thought. After all, it’s the Lancet, which seems to specialize in papers of high publicity and low content, so it’s not like I’m gonna believe anything in there without careful scrutiny.

As part of our project, Jonathan had already run age-adjusted estimates for different ethnic groups every decade of age. These time series should be better than what was in the paper discussed in the above news article because, in addition to age adjusting, we also got separate estimated trends for each state, fitting some sort of hierarchical model in Stan.

Jonathan reported that we found a similar increase in death rates for women after adjustment. But there are comparable increases for men after breaking down by state.

Here are the estimated trends in age-adjusted death rates for non-Hispanic white women aged 25-34:

And here are the estimated trends for men:

In the graphs for the women, certain states with too few observations were removed. (It would be fine to estimate these trends from the raw data, but for simplicity we retrieved some aggregates from the CDC website, and it didn’t provide numbers in every state and every year.)

Anyway, the above graphs show what you can do with Stan. We’re not quite sure what to do with all these analyses: we don’t have stories to go with them so it’s not clear where they could be published. But at least we can blog them in response to headlines on mortality trends.

P.S. The Westlake titles keep on coming. It’s not just that they are so catchy—after all, that’s their point—but how apt they are, each time. And the amazing thing is, I’m using them in order. Those phrases work for just about anything. I’m just looking forward to a month or so on when I’ve worked my way down to the comedy titles lower down on the list.


  1. Nate Frey says:

    Re: where you could go with it, maybe try Demographic Research? They take several unconventional submission types like “research materials” and “descriptive findings,” and have a lot of other advantages (open access but funded by Max Planck Institutes, encourages reproducibility, etc.)

  2. Eric Loken says:

    Terrific graphs. Small hiccup on the New England women?
    Some of these states have almost a 50% increase in the death rate of young adults over the last decade or so. I’m presuming opioids is a major cause here. These trends are terrifying.

  3. James says:

    Not particularly related to the post, but here’s an article full or exaggerated language and forking paths. Scientific American tends to be better than this…

  4. numeric says:

    Traduisez s’il vous plait!

    • jrc says:

      Here you go: Google translated from French to Nepali, Nepali to Spanish, and Spanish to English:

      “The rate has declined steadily for the same time, The Lancet magazine published January 26, 35 years, 25 years of young American mortality rate has increased between 1999 and 2014, according to a survey conducted by the rich countries of forty years. . . . The number of these young, mostly white women are up to the bridge. . . Therefore, the National Center for Health Statistics data compiled from the analysis of the mortality rate of white women aged 25 years the average annual count taken over the fifteen years has seen an increase of 3% and the 2.3% shows that thirty of the category. For older children, the mortality rate was 1.9% in annual growth.”

      Obviously, the key point is that young, mostly white women are up to the bridge.

      • Martha (Smith) says:

        My French is admittedly poor, but I think I can do a better job without a dictionary than the three-step Google translation. Here goes:

        According to an inquiry published January 26 in the scientific review The Lancet, the mortality toll for young American women aged 25 to 35 has grown progressively between 1999 and 2014, while this toll hasn’t stopped decreasing in the group of the richest countries during the past forty years … It is mainly white young women who push the numbers so high … Thus, the analysis of the statistics collected by the National Center for Health statistics show that the mortality toll of white women 25 years old has experienced a mean annual progression of 3% during the fifteen years studied, and 2.3% for thirty-year old women. For young men of the same age, the annual growth of the mortality toll has risen at 1.9%.

    • No cat picture and you need to be bilingual to read the post. This must be a test of methods to lower readership…

    • Anthony St. John says:

      Translation: Will someone cut and paste that into Google Translate? I’m either unwilling or unable to do it for myself. Thanks!

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