US life expectancy drops again, overdoses climb

Suicide, at 50-year peak, pushes down US life expectancy

The average US life expectancy fell in 2017 as suicide and drug overdose rates continue to rise, according to three government reports released Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found almost 70,000 more Americans died in 2017 than 2016, with rising rates of death among 25- to 44-year-olds.

Americans can expect to live just over 78 years and six months on average - a 0.1 year drop from 2016, according to the report released on Thursday.

"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", Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, said in a statement. And synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are a growing problem: The rate of overdose deaths involving these drugs rose by 45% from 2016 to 2017.

The number of resident deaths recorded in the nation totaled more than 2.8 million in 2017, about 69,000 more than in 2016, a second government report shows. The president declared the crisis a national health emergency in December 2017 and even said he'd be willing to institute the death penalty for those peddling the drugs.

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.

The top 10 leading causes of death - including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and suicide - were the same as in 2016, accounting for the majority of deaths. All together, the USA death rate rose by 0.4% from 2016 to 2017, going from 728.8 deaths per 100,000 people to 731.9.

USA women continue to outlive men, and the death rate did decrease among 45- to 54-year-olds. Preliminary data from the CDC indicate that a state's overdose trend closely tracks the number of fentanyl-related deaths. The rate more than tripled for both men and women, with a slightly higher increase for women, although the overall death rate was approximately twice as high for men as for women.

The modern trend seems to be propelled by steady increases in deaths by suicide and drugs, according to the new data. The rate increased from about 6 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to almost 22 per 100,000 in 2017. And female suicides increased at a higher rate than male suicides during this period, though more men than women die by suicide each year.

Suicides and drug overdoses helped lead a surge in US deaths a year ago, and drove a continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live. Though constant, the rate has increased over time from about 10 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 in 2017.

A third report found that suicide rates also continue to climb, particularly among rural Americans. He added that the CDC "is committed to putting science into action to protect USA health".

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