CDC: US Life Expectancy Still On the Decline

Desiree Burns
December 2, 2018

American life expectancy has dropped.

Life expectancy in America increased over the decades; it was the highest in the world during the 1960s. "Do we say this is the new normal?"

The average American could expect to live to 78.6 years old in 2017, down from 78.7 in 2016, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). While total life expectancy for males had decreased from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017, female life expectancy stayed the same at 81.1 years.

The pattern of drugs involved in overdose deaths has changed in recent years.

This year, high-profile incidents like the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade as well as clusters of suicides among young people in communities all over the country have served as a reminder that suicide is a growing public health issue in the U.S. There had been a sharp increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol, from 2016 to 2017.

The deadly synthetic fentanyl accounted for almost three-fourths of OH drug deaths, killing 3,431 people in 2017, 46-percent more than in the previous year, according to data compiled by the state Department of Health. The number of heroin deaths, 15,482, also did not rise from the previous year. Federal officials cited 5,111 drug deaths in OH past year.

"There has been an assumption at times that overdoses fit into one of two categories: they're intentional or they're unintentional", she says.

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An underlying factor is that the death rate for heart disease - the nation's No. 1 killer - has stopped falling. As in the rest of the USA, in Colorado, around half of suicide deaths are the result of a gunshot wound.

Deaths from cancer continued their long, steady, downward trend. The CDC did not release state rates for suicides.

By the revised measure, life expectancy in 2015 and 2016 was flat, at 78.7, a decline from 78.9 in 2014.

In a third report, the government detailed the ongoing growth of deaths from suicide, which has climbed steadily since 1999 and grown worse since 2006. Meanwhile, there were increases in seven others - suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries. Past CDC data has shown particularly worrisome increases among teen girls, for whom the suicide rate rose by approximately 70% between 2010 and 2016.

Financial struggles, a widening income gap and divisive politics are all casting a pall over many Americans, he suggested. Farmers have among the highest suicide rates of any professional group in the U.S, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, an organization funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services. "Having easily available lethal means is a big risk factor for suicide".

Dr. Redfield echoed that sentiment in his statement, saying, "We must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier".

Sharfstein said the most lamentable aspect of the crises is that policymakers know which approaches make a difference, such as medically assisted treatment for drug abusers and increased availability of mental health services in states where they are lacking.

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