U.S. life expectancy drops, overdoses climb - govt report

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

Babies born in 2017 have an estimated average life expectancy of 78.6 years, according to the report. But it suggests that the decrease in 2015 was more than a blip-and it points to unfolding stories about health and death in the United States. Death rates rose in particular for adults ages 25 to 44.

As you can see in the map (linked here and embedded below), the areas most affected by high rates of death are concentrated in the Southeast and parts of the Southwest.

At the same time, suicide rates have also steadily increased, according to the CDC, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the USA - and the second most common cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. At the same time, there are plenty of areas where the maps don't align.

In the nation's 10 leading causes of death, only the cancer death rate fell in 2017.

Regardless of what's driving the trend, it feels especially dire in a country as rich as this one.

CDC & FDA
CDC & FDA

"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", he said in a statement released Thursday. The numbers keep climbing, contributing to a decline in the overall life expectancy rate, which began to fall in 2015 and 2017 after several decades of escalation. The UK's life expectancy is around 80 years. By comparison, the rate for women has increased from four per 100,000 to 14. However, this 2017 urban suicide rate is 16 percent higher than in 1999 (about 10 per 100,000), while the 2017 suicide rate for the most rural counties is 53 percent higher than in 1999 (about 13 per 100,000), the report indicates. Now it's trending the other way: It fell in 2015, stayed level in 2016, and declined again previous year, the CDC said.

There's also a need to prevent potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, from entering the drug market.

Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the Center for Health Statistics, said the leveling off of prescription drug deaths may reflect a small impact from efforts in recent years to curb the diversion of legal painkillers to users and dealers on the streets.

The heroin overdose death rate remained constant at about 5 deaths per 100,000 people for both 2016 and 2017; that said, it is seven times higher than in 1999. "I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide", he said.

Finally, the 10 leading causes of death in 2017, accounting for almost three-quarters of all deaths across the nation, were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide. That number has been steadily rising, and in 2017 approximately 29 out of 100,000 men died of a drug overdose. Women generally live longer, with a life expectancy of 81.1 last year, a number that stayed flat compared with the year before. More remote areas have seen rates nearly twice as high as in urban areas.

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