Published: Sat, December 01, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Another year, another decrease in life expectancy in the US

Another year, another decrease in life expectancy in the US

The average life expectancy in the USA declined from 78.7 to 78.6 years.

U.S. women continue to outlive men, and the death rate did decrease among 45- to 54-year-olds. Meanwhile, there were increases in seven others - suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries. Yet a second CDC report revealed that the rate of drug overdoses jumped 9.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, totaling 70,237 deaths previous year. The rate has increased on average by 16 percent per year since 2014 and more than tripled since 1999.

Accidental drug overdoses account for more than a third of the unintentional injury deaths, and intentional drug overdoses account for about a tenth of the suicides, said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, a CDC injury researcher. The rates of drug overdose deaths involving heroin (4.9 per 100,000), natural and semi-synthetic opioids (4.4) and methadone (1.0) were the same in 2016 and 2017. Preliminary data from the CDC indicate that a state's overdose trend closely tracks the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

According to another new report from the agency's NCHS, the suicide rate among those aged 65 to 74 years increased from 1999 to 2017, but it decreased "significantly" among those aged 75 or more years during the same time period.

Heart disease remained the leading cause of death among Americans.

"That's kind of our saving grace", Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality-statistics branch of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics told the Wall Street Journal. In most developed nations, life expectancy has marched steadily upward for decades.

"The latest CDC data show that the US life expectancy has declined over the past few years", said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D.

The last time the U.S. experienced this long of a general decline in life expectancy was in the late 1910s, when the Spanish Influenza and World War I killed almost 1 million Americans. Japan has the longest life expectancy in the world, at nearly 84.

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"There are some data to suggest that that's led to a sense of hopelessness, which in turn could lead to an increase in rates of suicide and certainly addictive behaviors".

Rates of drug overdose deaths in the US continued to increase. It is the 10th highest cause of death for all age groups.

A rise in increase in suicides and drug overdoses was the main factor behind the decline in life expectancy.

"Even so, most important is to remember that these are people, not just numbers - members of our families, friends, loved ones and neighbors", Levine said.

The CDC report is a sobering reality check for those working to reduce deaths by suicide.

"If we can remove those artificial barriers, people would likely seek help more often, and with proper treatment, we could start to see a decrease in suicide rates", Graham said. The data also show that the increased deaths correspond strongly with the use of synthetic opioids known as fentanyls.

Public health experts are alarmed by the new statistics released by the CDC. In years past, reductions in heart disease deaths were enough to serve as a counterbalance to other causes of death, but that is no longer true, Anderson said.

In 2017, the suicide rate for the most rural counties (20 per 100,000) outpaced that in the most urban counties (about 11 per 100,000).

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