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Life expectancy in the United States continues to decline, and officials know why

Published Nov 29th, 2018 12:18PM EST
life expectancy
Image: Ermadz X

Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen once again, following a trend that began in 2015 when the average expected life span of a baby born in the United States took a small but significant hit. It continued in 2016 and now the numbers for 2017 have been tallied and appear to follow the same downward slope.

A trio of reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released yesterday reveal that, while all 10 of the leading causes of death from 2016 remain identical to those of 2017, another factor is contributing the overall decline in life expectancy. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know what it is: drugs.

According to the report titled “Mortality in the United States, 2017,” the life expectancy for a baby born in 2017 fell to 78.6. That figure was 78.7 in 2016, which might seem like a tiny difference but when you’re talking about hundreds of millions any change is significant.. Not to mention the fact that this is now the third year in a row in which life expectancy has taken a hit.

The cause, according to government officials, is a combination of increased drug overdose numbers and higher suicide rates. Drug overdose deaths spikes by over 6,500 in 2017, especially among men. For additional context, In 1999 the death rate for drug overdoses among men was around 8 in every 100,000 individuals. That number has been steadily rising, and in 2017 approximately 29 out of 100,000 men died of a drug overdose.

Suicides are also on the rise, and men are again more likely to be affected. This change is much smaller than that of drug overdoses, only rising from 10 in 100,000 to 14 in 100,000 from 1999 to 2017, but it’s still enough to impact the overall life expectancy.

“We must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement.