United States (Sputnik) – Health researchers are ringing the alarm as life expectancy in the US dropped for the second year in a row, a trend that has ended the steady rise of longevity that started in 1963. The cause? The opioid epidemic, among other things.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a baby born in the United States in 2016 can expect to live 78.6 years — a decline of almost a month compared to 2015 and two months compared to 2014.
“One undeniable culprit is the opioid epidemic, which is cutting down young adults at alarming and increasing rates,” reads USA Today’s report.
While the difference of one month might not look that big, it reflects a tragic trend across the entire nation. Life expectancy in the US did not decline for two years in a row since 1962-1963, when spikes in flu deaths were likely to blame, says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch of the Center for Health Statistics.
“We do occasionally see a one-year dip, even that doesn’t happen that often, but two years in a row is quite striking,” Anderson said, according to The Guardian. “And the key driver of that is the increase in drug overdose mortality.”
The arguably most disturbing part is how the US stands out compared to global trends: while life expectancy in the US has dropped, in the rest of the world it keeps climbing.
“If you look at the other developed countries in the world, they’re not seeing this kind of thing. Life expectancy is going up,” Anderson says.
He also pointed out that the decline has happened despite the US having one of the world’s highest rates of expenditure on medical care per person.
More than 42,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses alone in 2016, a 28 percent increase over 2015, the Center’s statistics say. In total, the deaths of 63,600 Americans are attributed to drug overdoses, increasing this dark total figure by 21 percent.
In 2016, when the Washington Post first reported the new trend, experts pointed out that what are known as “diseases of despair” — alcoholism, drug overdoses and suicides — were on the rise.
In the meantime, deaths from heart disease — the number one cause of death in the US, according to the Center for Health Statistics — fell for the sixth year in a row. But even that is not enough to compensate for increasing drug death cases, Anderson says.
The five states with the worst death rates are West Virginia, with nearly triple the national average — 52 people for every 100,000 died of an overdose there — followed by Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and the city of Washington, DC. All four see some 38 overdose deaths out of every 100,000 deaths.
This report prepared by Sputnik