Large study links lower income to deaths from opioid overdoses

People with a lower income in the United States are more than twice as likely to die of an opioid overdose compared to more affluent groups, according to a study published in the journal PLOS One. The findings could help target prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation efforts to vulnerable groups, the researchers said.

The study detailed who is most likely to be a victim of opioid abuse at a time when such deaths remain at an all-time high nationally. It is part of the Mortality Disparities in American Community Study (MDAC) and uses data from 4 million people nationwide who were followed over a seven-year period (from 2008 through 2015).

The study found that those who live at or below the poverty line, for instance, make up 31% of opioid overdose victims, while those not in the labor force make up 47%. The study also found those without a high school diploma make up 24% of deaths, and another 35% come from those without any level of college education. Those with master's or doctorate degrees, on the other hand, account for 3% of such deaths, the study found.

The study was partly funded by NHLBI. The corresponding author of the study was Sean Altekruse, Ph.D., a program officer in the Epidemiology Branch of the Prevention and Population Science Program, Cardiovascular Sciences, NHLBI.

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