Diseases of Despair in Young Adulthood: Risk, Resilience, and Prevention

Project Description

After decades of improvement, premature mortality is uniquely on the rise in the U.S. among White non-Hispanic adults with low education. Suicide, drug poisoning (particularly from opiates), and alcoholic liver disease appear to be the culprits and have been coined "deaths of despair." These deaths of despair are the focus of this research, as are the pathways to deaths of despair. Despite many years of research and rising suicides and a nationwide opiates public health emergency, we lack accurate and appreciable predictions of who will succumb to deaths of despair and who will be shielded from them.

This study utilizes three long-standing, prospective-longitudinal data sets spanning childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, with recent assessments in young adulthood

to identify who is at risk for diseases of despair in contemporary America, how they came to be, and whether diseases of despair could be prevented by early intervention.

More information available online here.

Project Aims

The project aims to

  • look longitudinally at the developmental epidemiology of diseases of despair across the early lifespan using the three longitudinal studies.
  • idenitfy the childhood/adolescent pathways to diseases of despair and test protective factors that could intervene on these pathways.
  • assess the impact of childhood interventions that were part of the Great Smoky Mountains and Fast Track studies on diseases of despair

Results will provide direct, actionable and fine-tuned knowledge for prevention science and public policy efforts to curb the troubling new premature mortality trends.

Related Study Findings