US life expectancy is experiencing its longest-running decline in 100 years, and it reveals a troubling trend

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesThe average US life expectancy has dropped as suicide and overdose rates rise.
  • New data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that life expectancy in the US has dropped to 78.6 years in 2017, down from 78.7 in 2016.
  • The is part of the longest running decline in the country since a four year run between 1915 and 1918, the Washington Post reported.
  • The CDC noted that the life expectancy decline coincides with an increase in suicide and overdose rates.

On Thursday, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that US life expectancy has dropped for the second year in a row. The organisation released several new studies, one of which reported that life expectancy in the US dropped to78.6 years old in 2017, down from 78.7 in 2016.

This two-year run is contributing to the longest running decline in the country‘s history, according to the Washington Post. The last time the US saw a long-run decline was between 1915 and 1918, in a four-year period that included World War I and a worldwide influenza pandemic.

“I think this is a very dismal picture of health in the United States,” Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Washington Post. “Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world. It shouldn’t be declining in the United States.”

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The current decline can’t be attributed to wars or widespread diseases. Instead, it’s driven by increasing deaths from drug overdoses and suicide, according to CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” Redfield said in a statement.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. In a separate report, the CDC found that suicide rates in the US increased by 33% between 1999 and 2017. Suicide rates among people between ages 10 and 24 increased even more dramatically.

The rates regarding drug overdose were just as staggering. The CDC reported that in 2017,there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the US – a 9.6% increase from 2016.

This does not come as a complete shock, as America is currently battling an opioid crisis that, according to earlier CDC estimates, is responsible for the deaths of 49,068Americans this year. (That’s more than half of the total drug overdose deaths this year.)

Read more:
Way more Americans are dying from drug overdoses than we thought

The US is taking some steps to reduce the suicide and drug overdose death rates. CNN noted, for example, that state legislatures are introducing measures to regulate pain clinics and limit distribution of opioids. But, as Redfield noted, there is much more work to be done.

“[The] CDC is committed to putting science into action to protect US health, but we must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier lives.”


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