Drug Abuse Among The Top Three Factors In Shortening American Life Expectancy

By John Lavitt 02/26/16

A recent study highlights eye-opening information about the downsides of America's fascination with extreme stimulation.  

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Drug Abuse Among The Top Three Factors In Shortening American Life Expectancy
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A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study has revealed a frightening longevity gap between the United States and other developed nations. Although deaths from old-age ailments tend to be highlighted in longevity research, the three causes that are generating the gap are happening at younger ages. Drugs, guns, and fast cars are resulting in many decades of life lost. The researchers' estimates are based on an analysis of 2012 data from the CDC and the World Health Organization.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the data reveals that gun violence, car crashes and drug overdoses are the leading cause of deaths for Americans up to the age of 44. The rates for all of these causes of death exceed the rates in the 12 other developed countries in the study: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The 2012 life expectancy in these countries among men was 78.6 years versus 76.4 in the United States. Injury-related deaths accounted for almost half of that difference. Among women, life expectancy was similarly higher than in the other developed countries—83.4 years versus 81.2 years in the United States. Injury-related deaths, however, accounted for far less of the difference with only about 20% a result of guns, drugs and fast cars. 

Guns, drugs, and fast cars. It sounds like an American rock song or an American country song or an American television show. Whatever it sounds like, the downside of the national obsession with all three forms of extreme stimulation is having a devastating downside. The injury data also includes accidental and intentional deaths and suicides, and deaths from prescription medications and illicit drugs.

It does not seem surprising that gun deaths were a major factor among men: the U.S. rate was 18.4 such deaths per 100,000 men, versus 1 per 100,000 in the other countries. Given the fact that the U.S. is the easiest country to both obtain and carry a gun, such a startling contrast should be expected.

Among women, drug-related deaths fostered the majority of the injury-related difference. The U.S. rate was 10 per 100,000 women versus fewer than 2 per 100,000 among women in comparison countries. Although the types of drugs were not defined, one would have to believe that prescription drug abuse played a major role. 

Strengthening U.S. gun laws, making safer cars and addressing the root causes of drug use, including income inequality, are perhaps the only solutions to such difficult problems. Lead author Andrew Fenelon, a sociologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, concluded: "If we brought mortality from car crashes, firearm injuries and drug poisonings down to levels that we see in these other countries, we'd gain about a year of life expectancy.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.