Study: Auto plant closures caused increase in opioid overdose deaths

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Automotive assembly plant closures are associated with significant increases in opioid overdose mortality for adults 18 to 65 years old, a recent study found.

Researchers examined 29 manufacturing counties in 10 commuting zones that experienced automobile assembly plant closures between 1999 and 2016. These communities were compared to 83 manufacturing counties in 20 commuting zones that did not experience a closure.

The researchers discovered that five years after a plant closure, mortality rates spiked by 8.6 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 individuals in exposed counties compared with unexposed counties. This is an 85 percent higher increase relative to the mortality rate that would have been expected had exposed counties followed the same outcome trend as unexposed counties.

When broken down by demographic groups, nonHispanic white men aged 18 to 34 years experienced the largest increases in opioid overdose mortality.

Researchers compared age-adjusted, county-level opioid overdose mortality rates for before and after plant closures in manufacturing counties. The same timeframe was examined for manufacturing counties unaffected by plant closures.

The communities were located in counties primarily in the Midwest and South that had at least one operational automotive assembly plant as of 1999.

Researchers examined the date of adults aged 18 to 65 years, and data analyses were performed between April 1, 2018, and July 20, 2019.

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