John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera on the Church’s Response to Deaths From Despair

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


Between 1959 and 2016, life expectancy in the United States rose from 69.9 to 78.9 years. Most people know that. But did you know that since then, it’s reversed course?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association paints a portrait of a society in deep trouble. For the third year in a row, the average life expectancy in the United States has declined. The last time American life expectancy declined three years in a row, World War I and the “Spanish Flu” pandemic killed 675,000 Americans. Percentage-wise, that would be the same as losing 2.5 million Americans today.

Of course, in the early 1900s there were no antibiotics. Viruses were unknown–never mind antiviral drugs. The germ theory of disease had only recently been accepted widely in the U.S., and the kind of public health and sanitation measures we now take for granted were still in their infancy then.

Today, the U.S. spends a far larger share of its GDP on health care than any other nation. Yet, other wealthy nations are simply not experiencing this same reversal in life expectancy. In fact, some people in less-wealthy nations such as Costa Rica have significantly-longer life expectancies than Americans.

So, whatever is causing Americans to die younger and younger has nothing to do with medical science or technology.

As a recent Washington Post article describes, the causes behind this dramatic shift are things like “suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes.” These causes are summed up in the phrase “deaths from despair,” coined by researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton.

In other words, we are facing an epidemic of young people who are giving up on life, sometimes before it really even starts for them. As a public health expert told the Post, “People are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health.” As the study shows, they’re giving up at a younger and younger age.

The same hopelessness leading to the uptick in “deaths from despair” is also driving what I will call “acts of desperation,” that we also see in our culture. In this category, I’d put acts of mass violence, abuse, and the increasing numbers of young people willing to self-mutilate in a pursuit of their identities.

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Source: Christian Headlines