USA life expectancy drops, overdoses climb - govt report

New Hamphire State Drug Laboratory

New Hamphire State Drug Laboratory

Suicides and drug overdoses pushed up US deaths previous year, and drove a continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live.

Americans can expect to live just over 78 years and six months on average - a 0.1 year drop from 2016, according to the report released on Thursday.

According to World Health Organization data, the U.S. ranks 31st in life expectancy worldwide, among the lowest in the industrialized world.

In an effort to visualize some of these grim statistics on a local level, spatial analytics company Esri sourced county-by-county health rankings for age-adusted mortality rates and put them into an interactive map. The rate more than tripled for both men and women, with a slightly higher increase for women, although the overall death rate was approximately twice as high for men as for women.

While the average suicide rate in the United States has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years, the CDC's data also shows huge geographic disparities in suicide rates, with rural parts of the U.S. showing double the rate of urban areas. At the same time, there are plenty of areas where the maps don't align. The rate of overdose deaths increased by 9.6% between 2016 and 2017.

Regardless of what's driving the trend, it feels especially dire in a country as rich as this one.

"These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable", Dr Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, said in a statement.

An underlying factor is that the death rate for heart disease - the nation's No. 1 killer - has stopped falling. In most developed nations, life expectancy has marched steadily upward for decades.


Notably, deaths from legal painkillers did not increase in 2017.

The figures mark an "appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918", the Washington Post reported.

People born in the USA last year can expect to live until they are 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 years from the previous 12 months. The data also show that the increased deaths correspond strongly with the use of synthetic opioids known as fentanyls.

Among the 10 leading causes of death, only cancer deaths fell while there were increases in suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries.

Deaths by suicide have also spiked.

Drug overdoses have also caused the deaths of more younger people.

But Sharfstein, a former secretary of health in Maryland, said the heroin numbers reveal that fentanyl is pushing that drug out of the illicit market in some places. In the past two years, that has resulted in tiny adjustments to the overall life expectancy number.

"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. Earlier CDC reports have noted increasing rates of suicide by gun. In urban America, the rate is 11.1 per 100,000 people; in the most rural parts of the country, it is 20 per 100,000.

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