US Life Expectancy Falls Again Due to Overdoses and Suicides

Americans aren’t living as long as we used to. Perhaps that’s not news, but did you know we aren’t even living as long as we did last year? For the second time in three years, U.S. life expectancy fell, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“We’re seeing the drop in life expectancy not because we’re hitting a cap [for lifespans of] people in their 80s. We’re seeing a drop in life expectancy because people are dying in their 20s [and] 30s,” Harvard Medical School’s Kathryn McHugh told NPR.

Experts point to steadily increasing drug overdoses and suicides as the culprits. Currently, for someone born in 2017, U.S. life expectancy is an average of 78.76 years.

In fact, current life expectancy trends now rival the year 1918, when the country was reeling from the influenza pandemic. Flu is unfortunately making a comeback, accounting for almost 6 percent of U.S. deaths in 2017. It’s the ninth leading cause of death for Americans.

We’re going in the wrong direction.

Overdoses Are Spinning Out of Control in the United States

More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017, reports the CDC. That’s a 10 percent increase from 2016. Notably, that number reflects the most overdose-related deaths the U.S. has ever experience in a single year.

Blame a lot of that death on fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Deaths by these drugs jumped an incredible 45 percent between 2016 and 2017.

“It’s striking to see that there are more people who died of overdose in 2017 than at the peak of the HIV epidemic or the highest rates of traffic fatalities that we’ve seen in this country,” McHugh told NPR.

Between 2016 and 2017, the overdose statistics break down as follows:

  • Drug overdose rates for men: increased by 11.1 percent
  • Drug overdose rates for women: increased by 7.5 percent
  • Drug overdose rates for 15- to 24-year-olds increased by 1.6 percent
  • Drug overdose rates for 25- to 34-year-olds increased by 11.0 percent
  • Drug overdose rates for 35- to 44-year-olds increased by 11.4 percent
  • Drug overdose rates for 45- to 54-year-olds increased by 9.3 percent
  • Drug overdose rates for 55- to 64-year-olds increased by 9.4 percent

Now look back to 1999, the year the CDC first began reporting overdose death statistics. Only 17,000 people died of overdoses that year. West Virginia has the highest number of overdoses, followed by Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Another year of increasing numbers of drug overdose deaths is a national emergency, that can’t be overstated,” said John Auerbach, president and chief executive officer of the Trust for America’s Health, in a statement.

Suicides on the Rise

Suicide is the other killer driving up U.S. death statistics. It’s the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. And for those aged 10 to 34, it’s the second most common cause of death.

Suicides increased by 3.7 percent in 2017. That’s 47,173 people who took their lives in one year. Suicide rates are up 33 percent since 1999. Men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women. Suicides happen twice as often in rural communities than urban ones.

What’s going on? Some believe a lack of connectedness may be to blame, even in this age of constant interaction on social media.

People today are “less connected to each other in communities,” George Washington University’s William Dietz told NPR. “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.”

Death by drug overdose or suicide is tragic and entirely preventable. We need to watch out for one another and never let anyone feel hopeless or helpless.

Reach out. Light a candle in the darkness. You could be saving a life.

If you or someone you know are considering suicide, reach out to the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Espańol: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889).

Photo credit: Getty Images

33 comments

Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill6 days ago

thanks for the info

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R6 days ago

thank you

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Tabot T
Tabot T6 days ago

Thanks

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Shirley S
Shirley S8 days ago

Such sad statistics.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill8 days ago

thanks for the info.

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Aa M
Aa M9 days ago

So So SAD!

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry K10 days ago

OMG !

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Chad Anderson
Chad A10 days ago

Thank you.

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Janis K
Janis K10 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Peggy B
Peggy B10 days ago

TYFS

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