Opioids, Suicide Push Life Expectancy Down Again In The US

By Victoria Kim 11/30/18

This is the “longest sustained decline” in life expectancy in a century.

mourner at a funeral for a person who died from opioid overdose - life expectancy

The life expectancy of Americans has declined for the third year in a row, according to 2016-2017 data.

Rising drug overdose deaths and suicide are to blame, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As the Washington Post stated, this marks the “longest sustained decline” in life expectancy in a century, a trend not seen in the U.S. since 1915-1918, a period which included World War I and a flu pandemic.

A person born in 2017 can expect to live 78.6 years in the U.S., according to the new data. This marks a decrease of 0.1 year from 2016.

Females continue to outlive men. From 2016-2017, the life expectancy of American women did not change (81.1 years), while men’s life expectancy declined from 76.2 to 76.1 years.

Drug overdose deaths hit a record high in 2017 at 70,237, the CDC confirmed—a 9.6% increase from 2016. The demographics most affected were men, and people between the ages of 25-54.

West Virginia saw the highest rates of drug overdose deaths (57.8 per 100,000), with Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. trailing behind. Meanwhile, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska had the lowest rates, with about 10 or fewer drug overdose deaths per 100,000.

Deaths from fentanyl and its analogs, and similar drugs, increased by 45%, while heroin-related deaths remained constant.

Prescription painkiller-related deaths also did not increase in 2017, the Washington Post noted. This may be the result of efforts to address over-prescribing through prescription drug monitoring programs and awareness initiatives, said Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Efforts to increase access to naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdose, may have helped mitigate some death rates as well.

The rate of suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., increased by 3.7% in 2017. Female suicides increased at a higher rate than male suicides (53% vs. 26%), however, men still die in greater numbers by suicide each year.

The statistics paint a grim picture of drug and mental health problems in the U.S..

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield.

“We must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr