The US mortality crisis: CDC reports extraordinary drop in life expectancy

Desiree Burns
December 1, 2018

CDC analysis of preliminary 2018 drug overdose figures indicates that the increase in deaths may be slowing, but it is unclear if this trend will have persisted through the rest of the year. Yet a second CDC report revealed that the rate of drug overdoses jumped 9.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, totaling 70,237 deaths a year ago. Cancer deaths fell by 2.1 percent, leaving heart disease the No. 1 killer of Americans. Rates also increased for all age groups studied.

The CDC's report considered all overdose deaths and came up with 134 such cases for Vermont - 10 more than the state's report shows.

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

Drug-overdose deaths skyrocketed between 2015 and 2017, particularly for people between the ages of 25 and 54.

While numerous factors contribute to the spike in suicide rates, a recent study from the University of MI showed that the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why", which focuses on teen suicide, increases the risk of suicide among teens.

With a rate of 57.8 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people, West Virginia once again had the highest overdose death rate in the country, followed by OH with 46.3 per 100,000 and Pennsylvania with 44.3 per 100,000.

In a separate report, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reported the suicide rate increased by 3.7 percent.

Among drug overdose causes, synthetic opioids saw a 47 percent spike in a single year, with a total of 47,600 deaths being caused by synthetic opioids as well as other narcotics such as heroin.

Indeed, the new data shows that illicit fentanyl-related deaths surged again, from 19,413 in 2016 to 28,466 in 2017. In 1918, life expectancy was 39.

"After three years of stagnation and decline, what do we do now?" asked S.V. Subramanian, a professor of population health and geography at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It then decreased another 0.1 years between 2015 and 2016.

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In fact, the US hasn't seen a declining trend like this since World War I.

The most striking trend in suicide deaths is their geographic distribution. When will we start acting like it?

The life expectancy for Americans declined for the second year in a row, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most notable is the widening gap between urban and rural Americans.

"I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide", Dietz told the Associated Press.

Drug overdose deaths rose above 70,000 in 2017, a rise of nearly 10 percent to a new record high, according to new government statistics out Thursday. And while efforts to combat the opioid epidemic "are starting to stem the tide", she says, "we need to be doing much more".

Levine said Vermont has "hovered around the national average" for overdose deaths for several years.

All told, the U.S. recorded 2.8 million deaths in 2017, with middle-aged deaths making the biggest impact on life expectancy. In both 2016 and 2017, female life expectancy was 81.1 years, while male life expectancy dropped from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 in 2017.

- The infant mortality rate rose slightly, from 587.0 infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016 to 579.3 in 2017.

OH has the second-highest rate in the country, with neighboring states West Virginia and Pennsylvania making up the top three. Deaths from seven of the causes - accidents, respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's, diabetes, flu, and suicide - went up.

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