Case and Deaton clear up media misconceptions of opioid epidemic

Sept. 13, 2017

Research by Center affiliates Ann Case and Angus Deaton first brought notice to the epidemic of midlife suicides and drug poisonings in a 2015 paper(link is external) that pointed to increasing midlife distress, particularly among white non-Hispanic Americans. The media and policymakers have amplified this message, creating a national recognition of the "opioid crisis" and other "deaths of despair."  The researchers fear, however, that despite the intense focus on the topic, misinformation about the epidemic runs rampant.

Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 professor of economics and public affairs emeritus at Princeton University, and Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower professor of economics and international affairs emeritus and the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics, recently published an opinion piece(link is external) in The Washington Post to point out some of the misconceptions around their research and the issues uncovered by it.

The four main points Case and Deaton wanted to point out are:

  • Medicaid isn’t the problem (and isn’t the solution).
  • It is not all about opioids.
  • The crisis has hit men and women about equally.
  • Rural Americans are not alone in this crisis.

The full Post piece, entitled "The media gets the opioid crisis wrong. Here is the truth." can be accessed at is external)

The original research, published September 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as "Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century," can be accessed at