Work Longer, Die Sooner! America’s Dire Need to Expand Social Security and Medicare



Are we all really living longer? Let’s first point out that Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, noted for their research in health and economics, recently showed that many Americans are not, in fact, enjoying extended lives. As they stated in their own New York Times op-ed, those without college degrees are “scarred by death and a staggeringly shorter life span.” According to their investigation, the expected lifespan for this group has been falling since 2010. By 2021, people without college degrees were expected to live to about 75, nearly 8.5 years shorter than their college-educated counterparts.

Overall life expectancy in America dropped in 2020 and 2021, with increases in mortality across the leading causes of death and among all ages, not just due to COVID-19. In August 2022, data confirmed that Americans are dying younger across all demographics. Again, the U.S. is an outlier. It was one of two developed countries where life expectancy did not bounce back in the second year of the pandemic.

So the argument that everyone is living longer greatly stretches the truth—unless, of course, you happen to be rich: A Harvard study revealed that the wealthiest Americans enjoy a life expectancy over a decade longer than their poorest counterparts.

Could the idea that working into our seventies and beyond boosts our health and well-being hold true? Obviously, for those in physically demanding roles, such as construction or mining, prolonged work is likely to lead to a higher risk of injury, accidents, and wearing down health-wise. But what about everybody else? What if you have a desk job? Wouldn’t it be great to get out there, do something meaningful, and interact with people, too?

Perhaps it’s easy for people like Steuerle and Kramon to imagine older people working in secure, dignified positions that might offer health benefits into old age – after all, those are the types of positions they know best.

But the reality is different. Economist Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School for Social Research, focuses on the economic security of older workers and flaws in U.S. retirement systems in her new book, Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy. She calls those praising the health perks of working longer “oddballs” – those fortunate folks in cushy positions who have a lot of autonomy and purpose. Like lawmakers or tenured professors, for example.

Author(s): Lynn Parramore

Publication Date: 8 May 2024

Publication Site: Institute for New Economic Thinking

Dangers firefighters face include higher cancer risks



Compared to the general public, firefighters have a 9% higher rate of certain cancers, likely due to their exposure to high levels of carcinogens released into the air as buildings burn. The incidence of multiple myeloma — the first cancer Perez developed — is about 50% higher in firefighters than in the general population.


Dr. C. Ola Landgren has been researching links between occupational exposures and multiple myeloma for a number of years — particularly in first responders such as firefighters. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the National Cancer Institute, Landgren began to recognize patterns.

In New York, for example, Landgren had three myeloma patients who lived on the same block on Staten Island. Their houses had been covered by dust after the World Trade Center towers fell in 2001.

“Myeloma has a precursor condition known as MGUS, which is more common in the population, allowing us to identify risks earlier,” Landgren said. “We’ve actually observed higher rates of MGUS in first responders compared to the general population.”

MGUS — which stands for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance — has also been linked to pesticide use among farmers and exposure to Agent Orange among veterans of the Vietnam War. Levels also were higher in firefighters, police officers and construction workers who were on-site immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

Author(s): Lori Saxena, HealthDay News

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Drug Overdose Mortality by Usual Occupation and Industry: 46 U.S. States and New York City, 2020




Objective—This report describes deaths from drug overdoses in 2020 in U.S. residents in 46 states and New York City by usual occupation and industry. August 22, 2023

Conclusions—Variation in drug overdose death rates and PMRs by usual occupation and industry in 2020 demonstrates the disproportionate burden of the ongoing drug overdose crisis on certain sectors of the U.S. workforce.

Methods—Frequencies, death rates, and proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) are presented using the 2020 National Vital Statistics System mortality data file. Data were restricted to decedents aged 16–64 for rates and 15–64 for PMRs with usual occupations and industries in the paid civilian workforce. Age-standardized drug overdose death rates were estimated for usual occupation and industry groups overall, and age-adjusted drug overdose PMRs were estimated for each usual occupation and industry group overall and by sex, race and Hispanic-origin group, type of drug, and drug overdose intent. Age-adjusted drug overdose PMRs were also estimated for individual occupations and industries.

Results—Drug overdose mortality varied by usual occupation and industry. Workers in the construction and extraction occupation group (162.6 deaths per 100,000 workers, 95% confidence interval: 155.8–169.4) and construction industry group (130.9, 126.0–135.8) had the highest drug overdose death rates. The highest group-level drug overdose PMRs were observed in decedents in the construction and extraction occupation group and the construction industry group (145.4, 143.6–147.1 and 144.9, 143.2–146.5, respectively). Differences in drug overdose PMRs by usual occupation and industry group were observed within each sex, within each race and Hispanicorigin group, by drug type, and by drug overdose intent. Among individual occupations and industries, the highest drug overdose PMRs were observed in decedents who worked as fishers and related fishing occupations and in fishing, hunting, and trapping industries (193.1, 166.8–222.4 and 186.5, 161.7–214.1, respectively).

Author(s): Billock RM, Steege AL, Miniño A.

Publication Date: August 22, 2023

Publication Site: CDC, National Vital Statistics System

The economic impact of the opioid epidemic




While the opioid epidemic has had significant impacts across the labor market, its effects have been particularly pronounced in specific occupations and industries. A CDC analysis of mortality data from 21 states concluded that unintentional and undetermined overdose deaths accounted for a disproportionate share of all deaths in the following six occupational groups: construction, extraction (e.g., mining), food preparation and serving, health care practitioners, health care support, and personal care and service. These fatalities are particularly concentrated in construction and extraction: an analysis by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that individuals employed in construction and extraction accounted for over 24% of all overdose deaths in the state’s working population.

Notably, the jobs with the highest rates of opioid overdose fatalities generally have high occupational injury rates and low access to paid sick leave. Figure 1 demonstrates that the industries with the highest rates of overdose fatalities in the workplace have elevated occupational injury rates for fractures and musculoskeletal disorders, both of which are significant risk factors for long-term opioid use.

Author(s): Julia Paris, Caitlin Rowley, and Richard G. Frank

Publication Date: 17 April 2023

Publication Site: Brookings

Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among Californians 18–65 years of age, by occupational sector and occupation: March through October 2020




Certain occupational sectors have been associated with high excess mortality during the pandemic, particularly among racial and ethnic groups also disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In-person essential work is a likely venue of transmission of coronavirus infection and must be addressed through strict enforcement of health orders in workplace settings and protection of in-person workers. Vaccine distribution prioritizing in-person essential workers will be important for reducing excess COVID mortality.

Author(s): Yea-Hung Chen, Maria Glymour, Alicia Riley, John Balmes, Kate Duchowny, Robert Harrison, Ellicott Matthay, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo

Publication Date: 22 January 2021

Publication Site: MedrXiv