Princeton Prof. Alan Krueger found a strong correlation between high opioid use and low labor force participation among men 25 to 54 years old. The trend is the strongest in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and North Carolina.
Opioid use may be responsible for a fifth of the record number of prime working-age U.S. men who have chosen to fully drop out of the work force and no longer seek a job. In a paper delivered at the Brookings Institution, Princeton Prof. Alan Krueger described a strong correlation between high opioid use and low labor force participation among men 25 to 54 years old, reports Axios. The trend is the strongest in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and North Carolina.
For decades, the U.S. labor force participation rate — the number of men aged 25 to 54 who are either working or trying to find work — stayed above 90 percent. Around 1970, the rate began falling. As of last month, it was at 88.4 percent. Krueger blames opioids. The fault is with doctors who are exceptionally free with prescriptions, not pain reported by patients. “Despite the massive rise in opioid prescriptions in the 2000s, there is no evidence that the incidence of pain has declined,” he said. Krueger said 47 percent of these men out of the work force take pain medication daily. About two-thirds said the medicine was prescription pain medication. “And these figures likely understate the actual proportion of men taking prescription pain medication given the stigma and legal risk associated with reporting taking narcotics,” he said. Some 40 percent of the men say pain prevents them from working full time on jobs for which they are qualified.