Conservative Policies Linked to Higher Death Rates for Americans, Study Finds

Not that surprising. Not exactly pro-life policies:

November’s midterms will serve as a political referendum on a number of issues, from gas prices to gun safety legislation and more. “At the end of the day, it’s just politics,” you might think. But according to new research, social and economic policies are life-or-death matters for working-age Americans. Changing state policies to become more liberal will save hundreds of thousands of lives while shifting to conservative policies will cost them, a study published Wednesday in PLoS ONE finds.

The new study is one of a recent spate to look at the link between policy and an unexpected increase in deaths among working-age Americans. Compared to European countries and other Western peers, the rise in deaths among this population in the U.S. has been “alarming,” Jennifer Karas Montez, a sociology researcher at Syracuse University and the first author of the new research, told The Daily Beast. She and her co-authors looked at mortality rates for the leading causes of death over a period of 20 years, at a time when “dramatic changes in state policies” were occuring.

The link between more conservative or liberal state policies and events like cardiovascular deaths or suicides are clearer for some policies, like regulations around tobacco. More liberal environmental policies are linked to lower levels of air pollution and decreased rates of asthma and other respiratory problems that can increase one’s chances of dying, Montez said. Liberal labor policies, like an increased minimum wage, may put more money in workers’ pockets that they can spend on healthier food or medical care.

“We often don’t talk about economic policies as if they’re health policies, but the reality is they are,” she said.

Some of these policies took a few years to immediately affect mortality rates. Criminal justice reform, for instance, took at least three years to have significant effects on rates of death—Montez said this may be due to the fact that these policies may have a downstream impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, and not one immediately felt. Liberal firearm safety laws, on the other hand, resulted in a near-immediate decrease in suicide deaths.

Of the policies studied, only more liberal marijuana policies were associated with a decrease in life expectancy. Even so, other studies on the overall health effects of marijuana policies have been inconclusive, identifying benefits such as treatment for chronic pain but an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.

If states had adopted liberal policies across the board, Montez and her co-authors calculated that 171,030 lives would have been saved in 2019 alone; on the flip side, conservative policies in all states would have led to an additional 217,635 working-age deaths.

Americans should realize that the decisions being made in state houses are becoming increasingly important to their own lives, Montez said.

“We’ve pointed the finger at opioid manufacturers, we pointed the finger at multinational corporations, but state policymakers have been given a free pass, and that’s a really critical oversight,” she said. “We need to make sure that we’re holding them accountable for the decisions that they’re making that affect how healthy and long we live.”

Source: Conservative Policies Linked to Higher Death Rates for Americans, Study Finds

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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