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Life expectancy in the US continues to fall

30 November 2018
Life expectancy in the US continues to fall

Life expectancy declined in 2017, falling to 78.6 years, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control released on Thursday.

Barring the unusual experience of the early 20 century, "we've never really seen anything like this", said Robert Anderson, a CDC official.

"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", CDC director Robert Redfield said.

Drug overdose deaths among US residents totaled 70,237 in 2017, almost 6,600 more than in 2016, a government report finds. Preliminary data from the CDC indicate that a state's overdose trend closely tracks the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

Last year's suicide rate was the highest the CDC has seen in the last 50 years. In 2017, that rate had increased by 16 percent, to 11.1 deaths per 100,000.

Younger and older people died by overdose less frequently, the report indicates. In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. When those death rates were broken down by ethnicity and sex, white people-both men and women-had a statistically significant increase in death rate, although their absolute rates were still lower than those of black men and women. While that number corresponds to a 9.6% increase in the death rate, it's much smaller than the 21% jump recorded between 2015 and 2016 - perhaps a sign that the nation's substance abuse epidemic may be starting to stabilize.

There's also a need to prevent potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, from entering the drug market.


Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths has more than quadrupled. For additional context, In 1999 the death rate for drug overdoses among men was around 8 in every 100,000 individuals.

Life expectancy dropped to 78.6 years in 2017, down from 78.7 in 2016, contributing to the longest-running decline in US history since World War I, when a flu pandemic killed nearly 700,000 people nationwide between 1915 and 1918.

As usual, women will continue to outlive men. The life expectancy now stands at 78.6 years, down one-tenth from last year. It continued in 2016 and now the numbers for 2017 have been tallied and appear to follow the same downward slope. Life expectancy in 1918 was 39.

In 2008, the year Georgetown began tracking these data, 9.7 percent of US kids 18 and under were uninsured.

Other factors in the life expectancy decline include a spike in deaths from flu last winter and increases in deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's disease, strokes and suicide. This grim "top 10 list" remained unchanged from the previous year. "I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide", he said.

Overall, suicides increased by a third between 1999 and 2017, the report showed. And female suicides increased at a higher rate than male suicides during this period, though more men than women die by suicide each year.