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USA life expectancy falls for second straight year - as drug overdoses soar

25 December 2017, 03:33 | Audrey Hill

PA Wire Press Association Images

PA Wire  Press Association Images

US deaths from drug overdoses skyrocketed 21 percent last year, and for the second straight year dragged down how long Americans are expected to live.

America's opioid addiction crisis - caused by the over-prescription of opioid based painkillers - has been blamed for the trend.

The death rate from drug overdoses rose 18 percent a year from 2014 to 2016, the team reported.

Men were far more likely to die from drug overdoses than women were, but other reports have found a growing number of opiate overdoses among women. Preliminary figures for 2017 showed the rise in overdose deaths continuing. Death rates among younger demographics, however, increased slightly.

"Even though 1/10th of a year of decline in life expectancy doesn't seem like a lot, it actually represents a lot of lives cut short", said Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics.

"If we don't get a handle on this", he said, "we could very well see a third year in a row".

Chile, Guam, Cuba, Czech Republic, and Lebanon are among other countries that beat out the USA for average life expectancy as of 2015, the most recent year for which the World Bank has data for those countries. The last time United States life expectancy last fell two years in a row was in 1962 and 1963, as the generation who came of age in World War II began to die of heart disease and cigarette-related cancers, according to Princeton University economist Angus Deaton, who spoke to Buzzfeed.

Large numbers of Americans have died from opioid overdoses in the last few years, and the numbers are rising.


The CDC also reported that West Virginia continued to be the state with the highest drug overdose death rate followed by OH and New Hampshire.

Drug death rates are increasing much faster than they have in recent years.

"Demographically, we should be in the middle of a mini baby boomlet, just given the age of the population and the size of the millennials, but we're not". West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania have the highest rates.

The nation's leading killer was heart disease. Moreover, it's the first time since 1963 that life expectancy has decreased in two consecutive years.

Overall, the 10 leading causes of deaths remained the same, although the death rates declined in seven categories and rose in three. For men, life expectancy dropped from 76.3 years in 2015 to 76.1 years in 2016.

There's been a big increase in deaths from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and tramadol. Highest is Japan, at almost 84 years. They include congenital birth defects, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.

The United States ranks below dozens of other high-income countries in life expectancy, according to the World Bank.

"The fact that USA has basically stagnated over the past seven years - and now we're seeing small declines - is a real sign that the U.S.is doing badly", said Jessica Ho, a University of Southern California researcher who studies death trends.



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