Podcast episode discusses research into perceptions of diseases of despair

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute releases Engage Podcast episode 15

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute released the latest episode of its Engage Podcast featuring research into diseases of despair in Pennsylvania communities. Daniel George, associate professor of humanities and public health sciences, discusses the results of a research study that conducted focus groups in Pennsylvania communities affected by diseases of despair.

Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton proposed the concept of deaths of despair in 2015. Case and Deaton’s research observed a decline in life expectancy of middle-aged white men and women between 1999 and 2015 — the first such decline since the flu pandemic of 1918. They theorized that this decline is associated with the social and economic downturn in rural communities and small towns. These changes include loss of industry, falling wages, lower marriage rates, increasing barriers to higher education, an increase in one-parent homes and a loss of social infrastructure. Diseases of despair are alcohol-related disorders, substance-related disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute has been focusing on the issue because of its uniqueness within the National Center for Translational Science’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program of being rural-based. Last year, the institute released the findings of its research with Highmark Health that found that medical diagnoses involving diseases of despair  increased in Pennsylvania health insurance claims between the years 2007 and 2018

Listen to episode 15 of the Engage Podcast at

Each episode of Engage Podcast educates listeners about the research process and how Penn State research helps improve our neighbors' and communities' health. Engage Podcast is available on all major platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Engage Podcast also is highlighted through a Linked In Spotlight page here

About Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute provides tools, services and training to make health research more efficient at Penn State. It advocates for translational science at the university and is a bridge between basic scientists and clinical researchers. The institute encourages collaboration to discover new treatments, medical procedures and ways to diagnose disease. To subscribe to its weekly newsletter, text PENNSTATECTSI to 22828. Learn more at

Last Updated August 13, 2021