Metro Detroit seniors are dying at twice the rate of older adults in Michigan, study shows
In parts of Wayne County, including Detroit and eight surrounding suburbs, older adults are dying at twice the rate of those who live elsewhere in Michigan, according to a report, “Dying Before their Time,” a 19-year analysis between the Detroit Area Agency on Aging and Wayne State University Medical School. The agency attributed much of the cause to be a "result of deep-rooted negative social and economic policies and significant inequities in resource distribution." Chronic illnesses, living conditions, accessibility to health care and lack of health insurance, food and transportation are specifically cited as reasons for the shortened lifespans, the study found. Study co-author Dr. Herbert Smitherman Jr. of Wayne State University School of Medicine and Detroit Medical Center said it was shocking to discover how many people aren’t making it to 60 years old. “I’m a physician but also a scientist, so when they approached me, my first recommendation was that an analysis needed to be done since there was never data collected by the state,” Smitherman said. “To see we lost not 1 or 2%, but 23% of the entire population, it seemed unrealistic. The Detroit region had 1.3 million people and lost more than 150,000 people, that’s just what the (nation) lost with coronavirus. “That’s when we realized something was happening to seniors that wasn’t happening with any other population, and it got my full attention. Next, we realized if they’re dying before age 60, what’s happening before?" Smitherman worries the trend will continue without a coordinated push to reverse it. "What we’ve seen over 19 years is that it’s the same," Smitherman said. "Unless we have some sustained effort where they allocate funding and collaboratively work to improve health and reverse centuries of racial poverty, this trend will persist over many decades to come. "If we do nothing, nothing’s going to change."
August 10, 2020