An study co-authored by Nobel laureate Angus Deaton, showing a huge surge in death rates for a large group of American middle-aged whites, was rejected by two prominent medical journals, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The research reveals that mortality rates for whites between the ages of 45 and 54 with a high-school education or less, drastically increased between 1999 and 2013, after falling sharply for two decades.
The sharp setback has not been seen in blacks, Hispanics or among Europeans, according to government data. The report suggests that liver disease, alcohol abuse, suicide and opioid overdoses may be to blame.
The paper was published on Nov. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Deaton and Anne Case, two Princeton University economists, and received international media attention.
The paper was rejected by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Deaton claims. “We got it back almost instantaneously. It was almost like the email had bounced. We got it back within hours,” said Deaton during an interview in Dublin, where he attended an Ebola crisis and international public health conference sponsored by Princeton University.
The pair subsequently tried to submit the paper to the New England Journal of Medicine, but were rejected again.
Deaton said the journal told them the report did not explain why the unusual spike in deaths among middle-aged whites occurred. But he likened the reply to a fire: “And they say, 'Well, what caused the fire?' and you say, 'I don’t know,' and they say, 'Well, we can’t send the fire brigade until you tell us what caused the fire.'"
When The Washington Post reached out to the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, both their responses were that all submissions are “confidential.”
Deaton acknowledges that one possible explanation as to why the research was rejected is because it might be used as political fodder to blame President Barack Obama for a development that began during former President Bill Clinton’s term. A prime example is when conservative site Breitbart used the study to proclaim that “Obama’s Bad Economy Helps Kill Almost 500,000 Middle-Age White People.”
“There’s this widening between people at the top and the people who have a ho-hum education and they’re not tooled up to compete in a technological economy ... Not only are these people struggling economically, but they’re experiencing this health catastrophe too, so they’re being hammered twice,” Deaton stated.