December 9, 2016

VOTE AS THOUGH YOUR LIFE DEPENDS UPON IT: Trump over performed the most in counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates.

The president-elect performed better than Mitt Romney in many places, but he fared best compared to the Republican nominee four years ago in the counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates.

Shannon M. Monnat, an assistant professor of rural sociology and demography, created a data set with numbers from 3,106 counties. She found this trend to be true nationally but especially so in two regions: In the industrial Midwest, which is how academics refer to the Rust Belt, Trump ran ahead of Romney by an average of 16.7 percent in the quarter of counties with the highest mortality, compared to 8.1 percent in the lowest quartile. In New England, Trump did worse than Romney by an average of 3.1 percent in the lowest mortality counties but better than the former Massachusetts governor by an average of 10 percent in the highest mortality counties.

Overdoses, alcoholism and suicide are known by experts collectively as “the diseases of despair.” People often (but not always) turn to pills, syringes, the bottle and other self-destructive behaviors when they lose hope, when they don’t have the means to live comfortably or when they don’t get the dignity that comes from work.

These findings could be taken as an indictment of Trump voters, but I don’t see it that way. This massive outbreak of “diseases of despair” — and the resulting turnaround in voter patterns — is instead a stunning rebuke by those left furthest behind by eight years of hopenchange.

RELATED: My previous lunch hour item.

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