Drug overdoses, suicides drive down U.S. life expectancy
Life expectancy in the U.S. has declined over the past few years, largely due to drug overdose deaths and suicides, according to a troubling new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Drug overdose deaths set a new record in 2017 by jumping 9.6 percent, to more than 70,000 fatalities. Suicide rates rose by 3.7 percent, continuing a trend that has seen suicides increase from 10.4 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 (per 100,000) in 2017. Rates in the most rural U.S. counties are nearly two times higher than rates in the most urban counties.
These two causes of death are the primary drivers behind 0.1 year decline in American life expectancy last year – a deceptively small figure that indicates serious problems, according to health experts. Life expectancy for Americans was 78.6 years in 2017.
A "wake-up call"
“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,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a statement.
The CDC report notes that West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia had the highest drug overdose death rates in 2017.
Most of the drug overdoses in the U.S. last year were caused by opioids, with a whopping 45 percent increase in deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The nearly ten percent rise in drug overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017 was less than the 21 percent increase between 2015 and 2016, but comes amid increasing governmental efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
Heart disease still #1
Heart disease remains the top cause of death for Americans, followed by cancer, unintentional injuries (which include drug overdoses), respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu, pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide, according to the report.