Strong link found between auto plant closures and spike in opioid deaths

Auto plant closures were associated with a dramatic increase in opioid overdose deaths across the U.S. South and Midwest, according to a recent study.

The study looked at opioid-related deaths from 1999 to 2016 in 112 counties near major automotive assembly plants. Five years after the plants closed, there was an 85% increase in opioid overdose deaths among working-age adults, compared with adults in counties where plants remained open, the study found.

Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study, discussed its findings in a December 31, 2019 Reuters article.

“This study definitely provides strong support for the idea that economic conditions and unemployment may have played a role in catalyzing the opioid crisis, particularly in the states with many closures, like Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee,” he noted. “It reinforces that health is not just biology and genetics—the economy, poverty, and social factors are crucial as well.”

Read the Reuters article: Auto plant closures tied to surge in opioid overdose deaths