Opioid Epidemic Boosts The Death Rate Among US Millennials

By Paul Gaita 01/08/18

According to CDC data, the death rate rose 19% for adults between the ages of 25-34 over a two-year-period.

Two grieving women embracing

Federal officials reported in December 2017 that drug overdoses have contributed to a second consecutive drop in life expectancy among U.S. adults, and now the opioid epidemic in America has been credited with another alarming statistic: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the death rate among "millennials"—which for the purposes of the report, is attributed to adults between the ages of 25 and 34—rose 19% between 2014 and 2016, the highest such percentage in more than two decades.

Coverage of the CDC report on the digital news outlet Quartz has linked the figures to an increase in drug overdose deaths among that demographic, which rose from 23 out of every 100,000 Americans in 2014 to nearly 35 in 2016. 

The CDC data shows that in 2016, 129 out of every 100,000 Americans between the ages of 25-34 died in 2016, up from 108 in 2014. Death rates also increased for individuals between the ages of 15-24 and 35-44, essentially covering the demographic between the mid-teenaged years to middle age.

Not all age groups experienced increases in death rates: the CDC's data shows that Americans aged 55 and over experienced much smaller increases in death rates between 2014 and 2016. Adults 75-84 experienced the most notable decline, with rates of death dropping from 13,673.9 in 2015 to 13,392.1 in the following year. 

In its analysis of the statistics, the Quartz piece laid the blame for the higher death rates among millennials and middle-aged adults squarely on the opioid crisis. The feature cited death rates among the former age group due to drug overdoses in 2010, which hovered at 18 out of every 100,000 Americans between the ages of 25-34. Four years later, the rate rose to approximately 23 in 100,000 before vaulting up to 35 in 100,000 by 2016.

When compared to death rates from a variety of opioids, including heroin, which rose from 3.4 to 4.9 Americans for every 100,000 during that time period, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which skyrocketed from 1.8 to 6.2, the Quartz story opined that the national opioid epidemic has claimed a significant number of young and middle-aged Americans and contributed to the overall national death rate and decrease in life expectancy.

The conclusions echo other findings, which show that the opioid crisis has had a significant impact on millennials, from tripled rates of hospital admissions for heroin-related issues in Orange County, California between 2010 and 2016, to reports which suggest that individuals between the ages of 20-29 in high-income countries are between three to four times more likely to die due to opioid dependency than they were in just two decades' time.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.