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Opioid Addiction and Suicides Have Caused Decline in US Life Expectancy

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Story at-a-glance -

  • Life expectancy in the U.S. declined for the first time in two decades in 2015. The trend continued in 2016, and the data for 2017 show the downward trend continuing for the third year in a row, which makes it the longest downward trend since World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic
  • Average life expectancy for the U.S. population in 2017 was 78.6 years, down from 78.7 years in 2016. Life expectancy for men also declined, from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017, while life expectancy for women remained stable at 81.1 years
  • The drop in life expectancy is being attributed to a combination of still-increasing drug overdoses — especially from fentanyl — and a 3.7 percent rise in suicides
  • In 2017, the suicide rate was 14 per 100,000, up from 10.5 in 1999, concentrated in rural America, with middle-aged women committing suicide at a greater rate than men
  • With more than 47,000 Americans committing suicide in 2017, about 2,000 more than the year before, it’s the highest suicide death rate in at least 50 years

Two years ago, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data revealed a sudden drop in life expectancy in the U.S. for 2015. It was the first decline in 20 years. The trend continued in 2016, and the latest data for 2017 show the downward trend continuing for the third year in a row, which makes it the longest downward trend since World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic.

Overall, the average life expectancy for the total U.S. population in 2017 was 78.6 years, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 2016. Life expectancy for men also declined, from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017, while life expectancy for women remained stable at 81.1 years.


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