Life Expectancy Has Dropped In the United States: Here’s the Disturbing Reason

Soaring suicide and overdose deaths have pushed down life expectancy significantly.

Life expectancy is on the decline in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released three new reports on Thursday. While the 10 leading causes of death remained the same between 2016 and 2017, the government organization claims that increases in two specific categories are to blame — and both are totally preventable.

In 2017, there were more than 70,000 overdose deaths — an all-time high and 6,600 more than the previous year — while the suicide rate increased by a whopping 3.7%. While the overall life expectancy only decreased a total of 0.1 year (to 78.6) from 2016, government officials find explanation behind the drop “tragic and troubling.”

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement.

Dr. Christine Moutier, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is particularly concerned about the fact that more and more Americans are taking their own lives. “This increase in the suicide rate is extremely discouraging. Until we scale up intervention efforts at the community, state and national levels, we will likely continue to see an increase in suicides in the United States,” she said in a separate statement via email about the new CDC data.

She suggests addressing suicide as a public health issue — similar to the way we deal with other leading causes of death — which include heart diseasecancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease. “Suicide is preventable. As a nation, we must take action by making a major investment in suicide research, translating that research into treatment and early interventions for mental health, and further educating the public on the warning signs of suicide.”

As for overdose deaths, an interesting finding of the data is that the overall increase wasn’t due to the younger population: the most significant increase in drug overdose death rates occurred for those between the ages of 55 and 64 for the period 1999 to 2017. Also, while heroin deaths remained consistent, overdose deaths involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and other non-methadone synthetic opioids increased by a whopping 45% between 2016 and 2017.

This new information is a sobering reminder that we need to invest more time and resources into preventable deaths. “We must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier,” Redfield continued in his statement.

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