( CNN) There are new clues that the high levels of stress many people suffer every day are taking a deadly toll.

White, working-class Americans are succumbing in middle age at a rapidly increasing speed, overruling a long-standing trend toward greater life expectancy across all races and social classes, according to a new report from economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton.

Much of this alarming trend comes from “deaths of despair, ” especially opioid addictions and overdoses, suicide, and alcohol-related diseases. To stem this epidemic, they argue that we need to understand the underlying reasons why this is happening. Case and Deaton make a plausible lawsuit that “slow moving and cumulative” social forces-out — lack of labor market opportunities and fraying of the accustomed social textile — are key explanations. They spurn arguments that attribute this trend to income alone or to a decrease in virtue.

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