Health Care

America's opioid crisis behind 'shocking' two-year drop in life expectancy

America's opioid crisis behind 'shocking' two-year drop in life expectancy”

The average life expectancy in the United States is now 78.6 years - down by 0.1 years, figures from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found.

Life expectancy is affected by mortality rates, but life expectancy calculations are forward-looking projections, while mortality rates are based on current factors. The rate of overdose deaths was three times that of the rate of 1999, jumping from 6.1 per 100,000 people to 19.8 per 100,000.

A new USA government report (pdf) shows a decline in life expectancy in the country for a second year in a row, influenced significantly by a surge in deaths caused by the nation's worsening opioid epidemic.

First, 2016 was one of the most lethal years for drug overdoses.

A portion of this can be attributed to the sharp uptick in opioid deaths.

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"Every community has been impacted by this crisis and it's getting lots of headlines, yet we're not making the investments or taking the actions needed at anywhere near the level needed to turn the tide".

People born in the 2016 could expect to live 78.6 years on average, down from 78.7 the year before, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these deaths were seen at the intersection of the Midwest and Northeast, with West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and New Hampshire being the areas with the highest overdose death rates. In 2015, 33,000 died from opioid overdoses. There's been a somewhat smaller increase in heroin deaths, the team found.

The report noted the 11 main causes of deaths - heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide - remained unchanged from 2015 to 2016.

An increase in drug deaths among people of child-bearing age can affect the country's birth rate, which is already approaching historic lows. It's worth noting that most drug overdose deaths are classified as unintentional injuries.

Still, as in other countries, men die younger than women. For men, life expectancy dropped from 76.3 years in 2015 to 76.1 years in 2016.

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If you make it to age 65, you'll likely live longer than 78 years. For women, it remained the same at 81.1 years.

-U.S. death rates decreased for seven of the 10 leading causes of death, but rose for suicide, Alzheimer's disease and for a category called unintentional injuries (which includes drug overdoses).

"They have a much more fragile existence than they would have had a generation ago", she told NPR.

The team also looked at the infant mortality rate, which barely changed in 2016 but which also falls behind the records of other developed countries. Japan's average life expectancy, among the highest in the world, was 84.06 years in 2016, up 0.26 year from 2015.

In 2016, 23,161 babies under the age of 1 year died in the U.S, 294 fewer than in 2015.

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