Why Are Americans Dying Younger?
A recent report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc) revealed that life expectancy for the average American is shrinking—and has been since 2014. The last time life expectancy dropped for several years in a row was during World War i, when America was suffering a deadly Spanish flu epidemic in addition to losing thousands of young men on the Western front.
Why is this happening now? cdc Director Robert Redfield explained: “Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide. These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable” (emphasis added throughout).
On average, 123 Americans commit suicide every day, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And for every person who commits suicide, 25 more attempt it.
Last year, the suicide rate hit a 50-year high. Since 2016, suicide has been the second-leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34.
In addition to suicide, drug overdoses are soaring. The cdc reported that in 2017, overdose deaths increased 9.6 percent. Since 1999, overdose rates have skyrocketed 255 percent. In 2017, an average of 200 people died from drug overdoses every day. More people are dying from drug overdoses than from car crashes or gun violence.
Americans age 25 to 34 experienced the largest increase in death rates overall, and the increases affected men more than women. These awful statistics are catching attention and causing concern across the country. Investor’s Business Daily wrote, “Why are so many young Americans, mostly male and in the prime of their lives, engaging in such self-destructive behavior?”
The fact is, thousands of young Americans are killing themselves with drugs and suicide. Why?
Investor’s Business Daily quoted one expert as saying, “I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide.”
Our overdose and suicide rates are hitting us in the face with the fact that our young people are hopeless—lethally hopeless! Why? Look at the world around them! It is collapsing! You would have to be living under a rock not to notice. Civically, morally, legally, economically, militarily, nationally, internationally: Human civilization itself is failing.
After one prominent actor died from a heroin overdose in 2014, the Guardian wrote: “[I]n spite of all the praise and accolades, in spite of all the loving friends and family, there is a predominant voice in the mind of an addict that supersedes all reason, and that voice wants you dead. This voice is the unrelenting echo of an unfulfillable void.”
Think about the miserable death of that actor, which happened in his apartment bathroom as his three children were waiting to see him at a nearby playground. Think about the 123 Americans who will kill themselves today and the 3,000 others who will try to. Think about the millions who are miserable, and ask yourself: What is this void?
There is indeed a void in human life, and not just among the addicted and the suicidal. Herbert W. Armstrong described this unfulfillable void in the August 1962 Plain Truth:
[W]hat God created in the first Adam was not yet complete. Man was made carnal, material—but he was made to need the Spirit of God. Without this spiritual life from God, man experiences a sense of emptiness, hunger and thirst for that which will satisfy.
This is why our world is filled with so many distractions. This is why people devote themselves so fully to diversions like sports or entertainment, or to illicit sex, or to worthier-yet-still-unfulfilling pursuits like careers, or greatness in business, politics, science and the arts. This is why some turn to drugs. It is why some turn to suicide. They are trying to fill the void. And they can’t do it.
Mr. Armstrong continued:
The only thing that will impart to him this sense of satisfaction, completeness, abundance, is God’s Spirit—God’s nature—God’s fullness. Yet his carnal mind does not recognize that fact. Being incomplete, lacking in the spiritual waters and heavenly food—God’s Word—that would fill him to satisfaction, he has a gnawing soul-hunger that leaves him miserable, empty, discontented. He seeks to quench his thirst and satisfy his soul-hunger in the interests and pursuits and pleasures of this world.
Satan does exist. He is the original source of sin and evil. And he will do anything to keep human beings from filling that void with God’s Spirit. He inspires human beings, who willingly go along, to try to fill the void with pleasures: sensual, emotional, intellectual, monetary—anything except the one thing that will actually fill it.
It’s not just the addicted and the suicidal who have this void. We all do. You do.
And the only thing that will fill it is a relationship with your Creator.
Only your Creator can help you truly fill that void and give you a life full of hope. He offers the “hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23). It is the only hope that can give real meaning to our lives. This is the real hope that these hopeless young people need! These young people so often don’t even have physical substitutes like a successful career, a happy marriage and a loving family. They resort to drugs, alcohol, sexual perversion, leading them farther and farther into the blackness of hopelessness and death!
Real hope comes from knowing your Creator, knowing the purpose of your life. Real hope stirs you to action—positive, outflowing, giving action. True hope motivates you to improve and do better: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Real hope leads farther and farther into a brighter and brighter existence, a brighter and brighter hope, and a brighter and brighter future!
Our young people need this hope. You need this hope!
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). The nearer you draw to God, the more hope you will have, the more power you will have to be cleansed of selfish, hopeless, terminal thinking.
This is the only real, lasting hope there is! Even those among us who have achieved success in education, career, marriage and family have found themselves lacking something, living with a void unfilled. They face the end of their natural lives realizing that they are still simply mortal, temporary beings with no hope of any future beyond that. The greatest individuals in history are in the same situation. Every physical human life is doomed. Only the intervention of the Creator can change that.
You have this void. But it can be filled, if you are willing to turn to the Creator of human life. You can have hope in a hopeless world—if you are willing to let God shape you into one of His sons. You can be happy—if you are willing to repent toward God, to be truly baptized, and to walk in newness of life.
In the middle of all this hopelessness, addiction and suicide, there is hope! Find it! Prove it! Live it!
This hope will fill that empty void with an animating, energizing, joyful power. It will motivate you to real, lasting change. And believe me, that’s only the beginning.
To learn more about this hope, the hope of the true gospel, request your free copy of my father’s booklet The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope.