Before Covid, social distancing, and economic shutdown, our world was crying. To be sure, the world has been crying ever since that fateful day in Eden. Still, these days are unique. In 2018 life expectancy in the United States of America declined for a third consecutive year.
This was despite our comparative wealth, medical care, and scientific research. The last time this happened was 1918.
Two events were responsible for the decline in life-expectancy one hundred years ago. The first event was World War I, which cost more than 116,000 American soldiers’ lives. The second event was the Spanish flu. This caused approximately 675,000 deaths in our country and 50,000,000 worldwide. We are not living in a time of world war. We are not facing a pandemic that is causing the number of deaths the Spanish Flu did. COVID-19 is an incredibly contagious disease. Health care professionals admit they have never seen something like this before. The death toll is changing constantly. Yet, thankfully, we aren’t approaching the level caused by that earlier pandemic.
What is to blame for our current decline in life expectancy?Sociologists attribute it to “deaths of despair:” suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, and the opioid crisis.
- The suicide rate in the United States has increased 13 consecutive years
- It’s up nearly 30% since 1999; among rural Americans, it’s up 40%
- Suicides more than doubled the number of homicides in 2016
- Amongst children ages 10-14, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death
- The suicide rate in this age group has nearly tripled from 2007-2017
Cirrhosis of the liver:
- The number of 25-34-year-olds who die annually from alcohol-related liver disease tripled between 1999 and 2016
- There has been an average annual increase of approximately 10% each year in that time frame
The Opioid Crisis:
- We consume roughly 80% of the world’s opioids even though we make up only 5% of the world’s population
Ours is a country that is losing the will to live. This is especially the case among our youth. There are many reasons for this. The ultimate cause is spiritual. When God is ignored or pushed aside, the creature made in His image and likeness loses any sense of ultimate meaning and purpose. Thus, the urgent and persistent call to reenergize God’s people and engage in a “new evangelization.”
The problem is that God’s instrument to tell the Good News – the church – is also crying. Next week, I wish to first look at why the Church is also crying. The following week we will begin to examine why these seemingly pessimistic times are actually a mystical time for the Church – and our parish!