Health Care

Soaring overdose deaths cut United States life expectancy for 2nd year

Soaring overdose deaths cut United States life expectancy for 2nd year”

A new United States government report (pdf) shows a decline in life expectancy in the country for a second year in a row, influenced significantly by a surge in deaths caused by the nation's worsening opioid epidemic.

America's opioid addiction crisis - caused by the over-prescription of opioid based painkillers - has been blamed for the trend. West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania reported the highest overdose rates. More than one drug is often involved in an overdosedeath.

Preliminary 2017 figures show the rise in overdose deaths continuing.

In the past few years, however, cardiovascular deaths have flattened while overdose deaths have gone up, allowing the deaths of younger Americans to impact overall life expectancy, he said.

"Even though 1/10th of a year of decline in life expectancy doesn't seem like a lot, it actually represents a lot of lives cut short", said Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics. "We need to get a handle on it".

The CDC on Thursday released updated data on death rates and life expectancy in the U.S. The last time there was a two-year drop was 1962-1963.

Even a single-year drop is a big deal.

Large numbers of Americans have died from opioid overdoses in the last few years, and the numbers are rising.

Overall, there were more than 2.7 million US deaths in 2016, or about 32,000 more than the previous year. That partly reflects the nation's growing and aging population.

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Heart disease was the leading cause of death, followed by cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.

"The new report shows the decline in life expectancy occurred despite an overall decline in USA mortality", the statement added.

An increase in drug deaths among people of child-bearing age can affect the country's birth rate, which is already approaching historic lows. All these factors combined caused American life expectancy to fall from 78.7 to 78.6, breaking down gender specifically to 81.1 for women and 76.1 for men.

"The 10 leading causes of infant death in 2016 accounted for 67.5 percent of all infant deaths in the United States", the report reads.

-Gun deaths rose for a second year, to almost 39,000. Japan's average life expectancy, among the highest in the world, was 84.06 years in 2016, up 0.26 year from 2015.

A change in mortality among young adults also affects the country in other ways, from the psychological toll on parents who have lost an adult child to a reduction in the number of workers helping to provide services for seniors through those workers' taxes, he said.

"They have a much more fragile existence than they would have had a generation ago", she told NPR.

"The fact that USA has basically stagnated over the past seven years - and now we're seeing small declines - is a real sign that the doing badly", said Jessica Ho, a University of Southern California researcher who studies death trends.

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