Increase in opioid prescriptions correlate with decrease in US labor force

A study, published in Bookings, examined U.S. labor force participation rates and correlated it with increasing opioid prescriptions.

Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton (N.J.) University, and colleagues examined the U.S. labor force and attempted to find reasons for its decline.

The labor force has declined since 2007, due to trends preceding the Great Recession and population aging. Possible young workers have delayed entering the labor pool to pursue higher education opportunities since the 1990s.

Prime-aged men have been leaving the labor force for several decades, Mr. Krueger claims. He examined the number of men leaving the labor force and found that nearly half have a "serious health condition that is a barrier to work."

Of those men, nearly half take prescription pain medication. In areas where more opioids are prescribed, labor force participation has fallen the most.

The prime-aged men tend to have "low levels of emotional well-being throughout their days and … derive relatively little meaning from their daily activities."

Mr. Krueger concludes, "a meaningful rise in labor force participation will require a reversal in the secular trends affecting various demographic groups, and perhaps immigration reform."

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