Here is one of the great contradictions in our world today. Our economy is healthy and growing. Our social fabric is weak and tearing apart.
Rich Lowry in his column suggested two ways to measure our social vitality: births and deaths. Both the fertility rate and life expectancy are declining. That is a certain sign that Americans feel less secure and have little hope. Our society is “characterized by less procreation and more self-destruction.”
Let’s first look at births. The fertility rate in 2018 dropped for the fourth straight year. Sure, the US is doing better than other advanced countries. In previous commentaries, I’ve talked about a demographic winter sweeping through Europe. But when a country starts having fewer births, it tells you something about its view of the future. The younger generation isn’t as hopeful about the future, especially when loaded with student debt and high housing costs.
We not only have fewer births but increasing deaths. One study from the Journal of the American Medical Association reports the decline of life expectancy in this country since 2014. By the way, the decline is not hitting older Americans but actually affecting young people in the prime of their lives.
Drug overdoses are a major reason for the decline. Midlife mortality from drug overdoses has increased almost 400 percent over the past 20 years. Here’s an arresting statistic: “In 2017, an astonishing 150,000 Americans died from drug or alcohol abuse and suicide, more than the US combat deaths in World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined.”
A declining fertility rate and declining life expectancy illustrate the hopelessness of a secular society focused on self and ignoring God. And it also shows the desperate need for a spiritual revival.