Americans dying younger as drug overdoses and suicides rise, report finds

Life expectancy declined in 2017, falling to 78.6 years – the third straight year it has declined in the US

Americans are dying younger, as drug overdoses and suicide kill an increasing number of people, according to a grim new set of government statistics.

Life expectancy declined in 2017, falling to 78.6 years, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control released on Thursday. It is the third straight year life expectancy in the US has declined or stayed flat, reversing course after decades of improvement.

“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.

Life expectancy fell from 78.7 in 2016. Women generally live longer, with a life expectancy of 81.1 last year, a number that stayed flat compared with the year before. For men, the number dropped by a 10th of a year to 76.1.

Death rates increased in 2017 – especially among people aged 25 to 44, according to the CDC. Death rates went up for white Americans, while staying flat or dropping for other racial groups.

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In all, 2.8 million US residents died in the country in 2017 – 69,255 more deaths than in 2016.

Drug overdose deaths hit a new record high – 70,237 last year, according to another new CDC report. The rate of overdose deaths increased by 9.6% between 2016 and 2017.

The death rate from fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids soared by 45% in a single year. Deaths from heroin and prescription drugs, meanwhile, stayed flat.

Deaths by suicide have also spiked. The suicide rate has increased by a third since 1999, according to the CDC stats, to 14 for every 100,000 people last year.

The suicide rate in the most rural counties is nearly double that in the most urban ones, the data shows. In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. It is the 10th highest cause of death for all age groups.

Of the nation’s 10 leading causes of death, only the death rate for cancer fell last year.

It is not just drug overdoses and suicides driving the drop in life expectancy. Deaths from seven of the causes – accidents, respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, flu, and suicide – went up.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


Erin Durkin in New York

The GuardianTramp

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