Millennial Deaths Surge As Opioid Crisis Deepens

Despite all the chatter surrounding the ‘globalized synchronized growth’ narrative rocketing equity markets to the moon, and or the constant bombardment of news stories about newly minted Bitcoin and Ripple millionaires living in their parents’ basement, the fracturing of the real and the financial economies has become more evident than ever, as many young millennials who are trapped in the real economy with high debts and wage stagnation are dying at an alarming clip.

The figures are so concerning that millennials deaths have shifted the overall life expectancy rate for the United States lower for the second consecutive year. The last time this occurred, it was the early 1960s when the stock market zoomed to new highs, but then, shortly thereafter, experienced a sizeable downturn,

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According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), 129 out of every 100,000 25-34-year-old US adults died in 2016. The last time these levels were seen it was 1995, at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Notice the v-shape recovery in young adult deaths?

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From 2014 to 2016, the rate at which 25-34-year-olds died advanced by 19%, from 108 per 100,000 to 129. For 15-24 and 35-44-year-olds it was much of the same with a significant increase in the death rate. On the other hand, the Baby Boomer death rates remained depressed or even stagnated, while they sat back, played bingo, and watched the younger generation implode on itself.

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This momentum of millennial deaths is astonishing. The trend does not bode well for the next decade - the period during which millennials are expected to take over the workforce - which however may explain the rapid ascent and increased reliance on AI and automation.

According to the CDC, the explanation for the exploding deaths is simple: young Americans are overdosing on drugs, particularly opioids. 

2010, just 18 out of every 100,000 Americans aged 25-34 died from a drug overdose. By 2014, that rate rose to about 23 in 100,000—then it really took off. From 2014 to 2016 it spiked by 50% to almost 35. The majority of this rise can be accounted for by an increase of deaths from heroin (3.4 to 4.9 for every 100,000), natural and semisynthetic non-heroin opioids like oxycodone (3.8 to 4.4) and, most importantly, synthetic prescription opioids like fentanyl (1.8 to 6.2).

Beginning in the 1990s, doctors began overprescribing opioids for pain management, leading many patients to become addicted. Jay Joshi, the former chairman of the National Pain Foundation, wrote in Quartz that ignorance among physicians and aggressive marketing by opioid manufacturers are primarily to blame for the crisis. Prescription opioids like oxycodone aren’t that dangerous, but patients can become easily addicted and so seek out more potent, cheaper, and conveyors of opiates like heroin and fentanyl, which has led to the recent spike in opioid-related deaths.

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Quarterly provisional overdose estimates from 2016 via the CDC show death rates are trending higher; suggesting there is little evidence in preliminary 2017 data that the situation is improving.

  • The age-adjusted death rate for drug overdose was 20.7 in 2016 Q4, which is higher than the age-adjusted death rate of 16.1 in 2015 Q4.
  • The age-adjusted death rate for drug overdose for the 12-month period ending with 2016 Q4 was 19.8, which is higher than the age-adjusted death rate of 16.3 for the 12-month period ending with 2015 Q4.

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"Would you like some opioids with that avocado and toast?"

Unfortunately, the opioid crisis will only get worse as it consumes the millennial generation, which is a double whammy for the US economy as Millennials age and are set to dominate the most productive age segment of the US labor market. Even the Federal Reserve has warned  about the impact of the opioid crisis on productivity and the labor market.

But then again, an army of robots is quietly rising in the shadows, waiting for the moment of social acceptance before it pounces and formalizes the next labor (and capital) revolution.