Rates of deaths from suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol have reached an all-time high in the United States, but some states have been hit far harder than others, according to a report released Wednesday by the Commonwealth Fund.
The report examined data in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., taking an in-depth look at 47 factors that have an impact on health outcomes, including insurance coverage, access to doctors, obesity, smoking, even tooth loss, and ultimately assigning each state a score. The data are from 2017.
Although the rates of the so-called deaths of despair are up nationally, the report’s investigators were particularly struck by regional differences in the rates.
“When we look at what’s going on in mid-Atlantic states — West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania — those are the states that have the the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country,” David Radley, a senior scientist for the Commonwealth Fund, said. Rates in those states are at least double the national average of fatal drug overdose rates.
West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rates, fueled mostly by the opioid epidemic. What’s more, those rates rose by 450 percent between 2005 and 2017, according to the report.”The rate of growth in drug overdose deaths in West Virginia is absolutely mind-boggling,” Radley told NBC News.