by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
American adults with less education and who are divorced or unmarried are far more likely to fall prey to America’s opioid epidemic, a new report concluded.
Sen. Mike Lee’s (R., Utah) Social Capital Project (SCP) released “The Numbers Behind the Opioid Crisis” on Tuesday. The SCP investigates the current state of American “associational” life, the “web of social relationships through which we pursue joint endeavors,” including families, churches, workplaces, and other social organizations. This, the second full report from the SCP, focuses on the impact of the opioid epidemic in America.
Significantly, the report highlights not only how many people are affected by the opioid epidemic—almost 50,000 deaths in 2016, a well-known if shocking number—but the portions of the population who are most impacted by it: the young, the unmarried, and the undereducated.
Education and marriage are key predictors of opioid abuse. One third of Americans over 25 had at least a bachelor’s degree and that group accounted for only 9 percent of all opioid overdose deaths, according to the report. Forty percent had a high school degree or less, yet represented 68 percent of opioid overdose deaths. The remaining 23 percent of opioid deaths are attributable to the 27 percent of the population with only “some” college education.
The division among Americans is also pronounced when comparing married/widowed Americans to their single or divorced peers. Sixty-eight percent of Americans over 25 were married or widowed in 2015, and accounted for only 28 percent of opioid overdose deaths. By contrast, never-married and divorced Americans over 25 are 32 percent of the population, but account for 71 percent of all opioid overdose deaths.
In other words, the opiod epidemic hits disproportionately those without access to education or marriage.