Published: Fri, November 30, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

USA life expectancy drops, overdoses climb - govt report

USA life expectancy drops, overdoses climb - govt report

The CDC found suicide became the second leading cause of death for 10- to 34-year-olds in 2016, with rates increasing 33% between 1999 and 2017, according to the report. It is the 10th highest cause of death for all age groups.

Driving the trend have been deaths by drug overdose and by suicide. The rate increased from about 6 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to almost 22 per 100,000 in 2017.

"I think this is a very dismal picture of health in the United States", said Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"There are not a lot of resources that we have available", she said. By contrast, overdose deaths involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and other synthetic opioids (other than methadone) increased by 45 percent between 2016 and 2017, rising from about 6 deaths per 100,000 to 9 per 100,000. In 2017, there were 22 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, compared to six per 100,000 people in 1999.

Another major contributor to declining life expectancy is the rising rate of suicides, which took more than 47,000 lives previous year.

While numerous factors contribute to the spike in suicide rates, a recent study from the University of MI showed that the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why", which focuses on teen suicide, increases the risk of suicide among teens.

Deaths from legal painkillers did not increase in 2017.


"It's really the first time we've seen this multi-year drop" in decades, said Renee Gindi, chief of the Analytic Studies Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are usually more potent, meaning small errors in measurement can lead to an overdose. The figure marks the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago, according to published reports.

The recent increases in drug overdose deaths have been so steep that they have contributed to reductions in the country's life expectancy over the past three years and are the leading cause of death for adults under 55.

The authors concluded that while further research is needed to assess the dangers of the show, "the findings suggest a particular vulnerability to the show's themes among youths at risk of suicide", and that steps are needed to be taken to ameliorate those problems.

The number one cause of death in the United States, heart disease, levelled off. Improvements in prevention and treatment of the condition usually offset increases in other leading causes of death.

The CDC issues its health statistics report each December.

In 2017, the suicide rate for the most rural counties (20 per 100,000) outpaced that in the most urban counties (about 11 per 100,000). That age range dovetails with the data on drug use, which showed people age 25 to 54 dying at higher rates than their older counterparts. By comparison, the rate for women has increased from four per 100,000 to 14. Earlier CDC reports have noted increasing rates of suicide by gun. The rate has been going up by approximately 71 percent per year since 2013.

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