Life expectancy in the US continues to fall

Chart showing comparing life expectancy at birth in the US 2014-2017

For decades Americans had enjoyed steadily improving prospects as life expectancy rose in the developed world.

The 2017 decline was due to a drop in life expectancy among men, who saw their estimated life expectancy at birth decline from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017.

"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation's overall health and these sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable", he said.

Separately, suicide rates have increased by about 2 percent per year between 2006 and 2017, according to the CDC's data.

Barring the unusual experience of the early 20 century, "we've never really seen anything like this", said Robert Anderson, a CDC official.

Deaths by suicide have also spiked. In the previous year there were 45,000 suicides.

More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses a year ago alone, according to the CDC. "I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads...to suicide", he said.

Other factors in the life expectancy decline include a spike in deaths from flu last winter and increases in deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's disease, strokes and suicide.

The number one cause of death in the USA, heart disease, levelled off. Improvements in prevention and treatment of the condition usually offset increases in other leading causes of death. Provisional CDC data suggests that drug overdose deaths may have peaked in 2017, although the change is unevenly distributed across the country.

The modern trend seems to be propelled by steady increases in deaths by suicide and drugs, according to the new data. "We're seeing a drop in life expectancy because people are dying in their 20s [and] 30s", McHugh said.

A baby born in the United States, in 2017, is now expected to live 78 years and seven months.

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The report, called "Suicide Mortality in the United States, 1999-2017", was based on government records.

Drug overdoses have also caused the deaths of more younger people. Nebraska, by contrast, had just 8.1 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents. Pennsylvania had one of the highest overdose rates in 2016, but it comes off looking relatively well off on the age-adjusted mortality map. For additional context, In 1999 the death rate for drug overdoses among men was around 8 in every 100,000 individuals.

"None of this is surprising", said Stephanie Appleby, the director of marketing and development for southwest Missouri's National Alliance on Mental Illness when asked about the newest statistics.

Over the past two years, there have been a total of 82 confirmed suicides in Greene County. There were 38 in 2017, increasing to 44 so far in 2018. Of those 82 suicides, only 12 were women.

"When you go to the hospital for a mental health condition it's nearly like you're going to jail", Appleby explained.

And Appleby also pointed out that both locally and nationally, there's a shortage of available care for those who need it. "Do we say this is the new normal?"

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