Medicine

USA life expectancy drops again as overdoses climb

USA life expectancy drops again as overdoses climb

The CDC reports in 2017, there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States.

Data released today by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics points to a continuing downward trend: life expectancy in 2017 was 78.6 years, down from 78.7 years in 2016. It is the third straight year life expectancy in the United States has declined or stayed flat, reversing course after decades of improvement. "Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide", CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement.

Nationwide, life expectancy at birth was 78.6 years in 2017, a decrease of 0.01 years compared to 2016 levels. While the rate of deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin remained the same.

Anderson said declines like this haven't been seen since the great flu pandemic of 1918 and World War I ― though those losses were steeper. In 1999, the death rate was just 6.1 per 100,000.

Between 2016 and 2017, mortality rates also decreased for black women, and there was no significant change in rates for black men and Hispanic Americans.

A comprehensive approach is needed to tackle the opioid epidemic, she said, including preventing new cases of opioid addiction and making treatments for opioid-use disorder more accessible. Fentanyl was involved in two-thirds of the state's opiate-related deaths in 2017, and Levine said he is "very concerned that it's expanding into a broader range of drugs". This follows a doubling of the death rate due to fentanyl and similar drugs from 2015 to 2016.

The top 10 leading causes of death - including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and suicide - were the same as in 2016, accounting for the majority of deaths. Women's life expectancy was 81.1 both years, whereas men's lowered from 76.2 to 76.1 years.

Age-adjusted suicide rates by sex United States 1999–2017
Age-adjusted suicide rates by sex United States 1999–2017

The number of resident deaths recorded in the nation totaled more than 2.8 million in 2017, about 69,000 more than in 2016, a second government report shows.

Separately, suicide rates have increased by about 2 percent per year between 2006 and 2017, according to the CDC's data. Suicide has consistently been among the 10 leading causes of death in the USA over the past decade.

CDC officials did not speculate about what's behind declining life expectancy, but Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University, said he sees a sense of hopelessness. The female suicide rate rose by 53 percent between 1999 and 2017, with a 26 percent increase for men during the same period.

"Higher suicide rates in rural areas are due to almost 60 percent of rural homes having a gun, versus less than half of homes in urban areas", Stanford University psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor Keith Humphreys told the Post.

A third report found that suicide rates also continue to climb, particularly among rural Americans.

"So the frustration that many of us feel is that there are things that could save many lives", he said, "and we are failing to make those services available".

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