ATHENS, Ohio – Diseases of despair accounted for the sixth-most deaths and resulted in the fourth-most years of life lost in Ohio over a 10-year period, a new study by the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health showed.

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of deaths attributed to diseases of despair – substance overdose, suicide and alcohol-related cirrhosis – have increased by 89 percent, a total of 53,632 within Ohio over that period. Combined, those deaths accounted for more than 1.9 million years of life lost due to premature death to diseases of despair, behind only cancer, heart failure and other unspecified infections.

“Diseases of despair are contributing to the overall drop in life expectancy in the United States, and they can be prevented with the proper care and resources,” said Rick Hodges, director of the Alliance and an Ohio University executive-in-residence. “These diseases are particularly concerning in rural regions like Appalachia, which are facing significant economic hardships.”

The years of life lost (YLL) was calculated from data abstracted from the Ohio Department of Health. Data were calculated on a county-by-county basis across Ohio.

Other key findings from the study include:

Deaths for diseases of despair increased 89 percent over the 10-year period, and years of life lost increased by 91 percent.

Unintentional overdoses accounted for 57 percent of disease of despair fatalities, followed by suicides (30 percent) and alcohol-related cirrhosis (12 percent).

Fatalities among all three diseases of despair rose during the 10-year period. Unintentional overdoses rose by 163 percent, alcohol-related cirrhosis rose by 40 percent, and suicides increased by 27 percent.

The largest increases occurred in metropolitan counties, followed by the Appalachian region.

People age 30 to 39 experienced the greatest increase in deaths by diseases of despair, followed by people aged 60 and over.

The full report can be found on the Alliance’s website at

The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health is a collaborative effort of Ohio University and more than 30 partner organizations and works to solve some of Ohio’s most complex and pressing health problems.

“These diseases combine to serve as one of the fastest-growing killers in the state of Ohio. It’s important to demonstrate the impact they are having on our population so we can begin to address and reverse it,” Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions Dean Dr. Randy Leite said. “These diseases particular impact southeastern Ohio, which makes it that much more imperative that we do all we can to raise awareness on the issue and work to ensure people who are struggling with addition or considering suicide are able to get the help they need as quickly as possible.”

This article was submitted by Ohio University.

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