ICYMI: Senator Hawley’s Speech on Declining Life Expectancy in Missouri

Friday, September 27, 2019

Yesterday U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) gave a speech on the Senate floor about a recent Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services report on Missourians’ life expectancy. The report shows that life expectancy in Missouri declined last year, continuing a trend that has been going on in the state since 2012.

In his address, Senator Hawley highlighted many of the concerns he heard during his tour of rural Missouri in August, including the impacts of a vanishing working class and drug abuse in small towns today. Background from the report and Senator Hawley’s remarks as prepared are included below.

Remarks as prepared:

Earlier this week, the Missouri Dept of Health issued a new report that shows life expectancy actually declined in Missouri last year.

And in fact, has been falling for almost a decade.

Death rates for Missourians who are between 15 and 44 years old fell by almost 30 percent between 2012 and 2018.

The death rate for Missourians who are between 25 and 34 is at its highest rate since the 1950s.

And we know what’s causing it — it’s an epidemic of drug overdoses and suicides, along with a spike in crime our cities.

Here are the facts.

Opioid-related deaths in Missouri have more than doubled in the past decade.

The number of suicides is up by over 50 percent.

And there’s no end in sight.

And it’s not just Missouri.

New data shows deaths from suicide and drug overdoses exploding nationwide. Suicides in this country haven’t been so common since 1938. Alcohol-related deaths haven’t been this high since the 1910s.

And the surge in deaths from drug overdoses is completely unprecedented.

These numbers are tragic, but they are more than that.

They are the signs of a crisis.

We are witnessing the slow-motion collapse of the working class in this country.

All Americans suffer from deaths of despair, but it is working people and working families who have been hit hardest.

And so now the working middle of this nation is fighting to survive.

You don’t have to look far to see it.

I’ve seen it in the small towns of my state, in the places where TV cameras never go, where town squares sit half empty, where businesses stand shuttered, where you can buy fentanyl with the snap of a finger on any street corner.

I’ve seen it in country places where meth is so common they tell me dealers hang bags of drugs from tree branches for their buyers to retrieve, a literal landscape of addiction and despair.

I’ve seen it in the faces of young farmers who put a crop in and pray for rain and pray for sun and pray for fair prices … and then wonder if generations of family farming will end with them.

I’ve heard it from young mothers raising kids alone, and working a job, and trying to go to school at night, and trying to shield their children from the drugs and the pathologies online.

I’ve heard it in the words of young men who graduated high school only to find no jobs, and no place to learn a trade and no hope for anything better.

This is the struggle of working life today.

And in my state, it is a struggle shared by white and black alike, and those of every race.

Because the breakdown of family — and neighborhood — the loss of good work — and the epidemic of addictive drugs — these things know no racial boundaries.

This is a struggle we are in together, a struggle that brings us together, a struggle for the things we love together — for home — and family … and country.

And the future of this country will be defined by how we meet this challenge.

You can see all of this if you’ll look. But this town won’t look.

It’s obsessed with partisan theatrics.

It’s obsessed with money and influence and status.

This town wants to keep its own good times going.

The political elite live in a world where the struggle of working Americans is just a human-interest story to read about along with the gossip page.

But it’s time for this town to take some responsibility.

It is time for the governing class to admit that the policies it has pursued for decades — on trade, on immigration, on finance — have helped drive working people to this crisis.

And it’s time to acknowledge that a crisis for working America is a crisis for all of America.

It’s not enough for wealthy people in Silicon Valley to do well.

And by the way, those people don’t need any more advocates in this city.

It’s working people who need advocates. And it’s working families who need a voice.

Because it’s the working class that built this country and keeps it going now. They are where this country’s strength lies.

And the future of working families and working neighborhoods, will be the future of this country.

That is what we should be debating. This is the urgent need we should be confronting. Because this is what will define our time.

Background on Declining Life Expectancy In Missouri From The Missouri Department Of Health & Senior Services’ New Report

  • Last year, Missourians’ life expectancy declined from 77.1 to 77.0 years.
  • The average Missourians’ life expectancy has dropped by nearly a year since its peak in 2012. It has declined from 77.8 to 77.0 years.
  • Death rates for Missourians in the 15-24 and 25-44 age groups rose by nearly 30 percent from 2012 to 2018.
  • The death rate for Missourians aged 25-34 is at its highest level since the 1950s.
  • The decrease in the life expectancy is mainly a reflection of increases in death rates among younger persons for external causes such as drug overdoses, suicides, and homicides.
  • Opioid-related deaths in Missouri have more than doubled in the past decade, rising from 468 in 2008 to 1,132 in 2018.
  • In 2017, 61 percent of opioid-related deaths were caused by fentanyl. In 2018, 75 percent of opioid-related deaths were caused by fentanyl.
  • The number of suicides in Missouri rose by over 50 percent in the past decade from 775 in 2008 to 1230 in 2018.
  • The number of homicides in Missouri rose by over 30 percent in the past decade from 486 in 2008 to 657 in 2018.
  • Read the full report here.