Health Care

US Life Expectancy Falls as Opioid Crisis Claims Record Number of Lives

US Life Expectancy Falls as Opioid Crisis Claims Record Number of Lives

Deaths from drug overdoses surged 21% to more than 63,600 in 2016, spurred by widespread black-market availability of deadly synthetic opioids including fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate hasn't fallen for two consecutive years in the US since the 1960s, NPR reported. That rate increased by 88 percent per year between 2013 and 2016.

The political dithering is costing American lives, Kennedy said - 174 deaths from drug overdoses every day in 2016, one every 8½ minutes. Federal officials report that the decrease is linked to the growing number of opioid overdoses.

Between 2015 and 2016, the US saw a 28 percent increase of fatal opioid overdoses.

"If those hadn't declined to the extent they did then of course things would look worse", said Anderson. The two next-highest states, New Hampshire and OH, saw 39 deaths per 100,000.

The drop in 2015 was attributed to drug deaths and an unusual upturn in the death rate for heart disease, America's leading killer.

Maine's drug overdose death rate of 28.7 per 100,000 people is higher than the national average, which is 19.8.

Heart disease was the leading cause of death, followed by cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.

The death rate for the general population actually declined slightly in 2016, but that drop wasn't seen across all racial and ethnic groups. There were 44,965 suicides in 2016, up from 44,193 in 2015.

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In 2016, total life expectancy fell by one tenth, from 78.7 years to 78.6.

"It sounds like a small amount, but when you extend that across 300 million people, and the hardship starts to add up pretty quickly".

Men (26 deaths per 100,000) are about twice as likely to die of a drug overdose as women (13 per 100,000).

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. And it's not like the average 78-year-old is dying one month earlier. Research has suggested this could be partly due to the US's socioeconomic inequality gap, which is much larger than Costa Rica's.

A change in mortality among young adults also affects the country in other ways, from the psychological toll on parents who have lost an adult child to a reduction in the number of workers helping to provide services for seniors through those workers' taxes, he said. Finally, although rates of overdose death are lower overall among the Hispanic community, they are still significant and too high, which makes the case for culturally appropriate and Spanish-language interventions.

The public health emergency fund now holds only around $57,000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, and Trump has not allocated the level of funding experts say is necessary to truly address the problem.

The overall downward trend offers a glaring contrast to a global five-year increase in life expectancy from 2000 to 2015 cited by the World Health Organization.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements", Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, told NPR. "And that really says the health of the United States isn't doing that well", he said.


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