Rise in Overdose Deaths Seen Among Adults With Lower Educational Attainment

Opioid crisis hitting those without college education the hardest

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 12, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Lower educational attainment is associated with higher growth in overdose death within the United States, according to a study published online Oct. 6 in JAMA Health Forum.

David Powell, Ph.D., from RAND in Arlington, Virginia, analyzed data from 912,057 U.S. overdose deaths (2000 to 2021) identified from the National Vital Statistics System Mortality Multiple Cause-of-Death data to determine if educational attainment was associated with overdose death rate growth.

Powell found that overall, 68.6 percent of overdose deaths occurred among individuals with no college education and 31.4 percent occurred among those with at least some college. Of the 301,557 overdose deaths from 2018 to 2021, 19.3 percent occurred among individuals without a high school diploma, 50.9 percent among people with a high school diploma, 21.4 percent among individuals with some college, and 8.3 percent among individuals with a bachelor’s degree. Of the overdose deaths, 1.1 percent occurred among American Indian or Alaska Native individuals, 1.0 percent among Asian American or Pacific Islander individuals, 16.3 percent among Black individuals, 10.5 percent among Hispanic individuals, and 70.1 percent among White individuals. This differential growth in deaths from 2018 to 2021 was primarily due to increased rates of death involving synthetic opioids.

“As the opioid crisis has transitioned to fentanyl and polysubstance use, overdose deaths have become more prevalent in groups with lower socioeconomic status, potentially exacerbating existing life-expectancy disparities,” Powell writes.

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