Medicine

CDC: Life expectancy drops again in U.S. in wake of opioid crisis

CDC: Life expectancy drops again in U.S. in wake of opioid crisis

"Now with this leveling off, over the last couple of years we're seeing that quite substantial impact on life expectancy", Anderson said.

But a levelling off in declining cardio-vascular mortality has given drug overdose increases a greater role in pushing down the overall life expectancy. And it occurred despite an overall decline in mortality. That followed another one-tenth of a year decline between 2014 and 2015.

"The drug overdose deaths seem to be driving what we're seeing", said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. Deaths due to heroin were up almost 20 per cent, and deaths from other opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone were up 14 per cent.

"We've been seeing increases in drug overdose mortality in the last 10 or 15 years, and yet that's been completely offset in the past by declines in cardiovascular mortality", Anderson said. But death rates past year continued to go down for people who are 65 and older while going up for all younger adults - those most affected by the opioid epidemic. That's up from 52,400 drug overdose deaths a year earlier, the data shows.

But death rates a year ago continued to decrease for people who are 65 and older, while increasing for all younger adults, those most affected by the opioid epidemic. Around two-thirds of those deaths were linked to opioid use, a surge of 28 percent.

But last year marked the first time in over 50 years that U.S. life expectancy fell for two years in a row.

Overall, there were more than 2.7 million US deaths in 2016, or about 32,000 more than the previous year. Overall death rates between 2015 and 2016 increased for younger age groups and decreased for older age groups.

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It was the first time overall life expectancy in the United States has declined two years in a row since 1962-63, and before that it happened in the 1920s, officials said. The slide was driven by higher death rates among young and middle-aged Americans, with those aged 25-34 experiencing the largest increase.

The states with the highest drug overdose rates are the ones hardest hit by the opioid crisis - West Virginia (52 deaths per 100,000), OH (39.1), New Hampshire (39), the District of Columbia (38.8), and Pennsylvania (37.9).

In addition to the increase in accidents, death rates increased 3.1 percent for Alzheimer's disease and 1.5 percent for suicide, the report said.

Sierra Leone has the lowest life expectancy, with women at 50.8 years and men at 49.3. The leading causes of death were the same; congenital malformation, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, maternal complications and unintentional injuries lead the list. "Life expectancy of youths should not be shrinking, especially not in the United States, and that is attributable to overdoses".

A heroin user reads an alert on fentanyl before being interviewed as part of a project to compile data about overdoses on August 8 in New York City.

Beyond that, many experts say, political leaders still aren't taking the problem seriously, and in many instances are taking steps that will make it worse. "Diseases of despair are rising in America". "This data only increases the urgent need for real federal and state action that will save lives".