Life expectancy in the United States fell for the second year in a row in 2016 — and it’s clear the epidemic of drug overdoses is at least in part to blame, government researchers said Thursday.
Overall life expectancy for a baby born in 2016 fell to 78.6 years, a small decline of 0.1 percent, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) team found. At the same time, mortality from drug overdoses rose by 21 percent.
“This was the first time life expectancy in the U.S. has declined two years in a row since declines in 1962 and 1963,” the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.
“The new report shows the decline in life expectancy occurred despite an overall decline in U.S. mortality,” the statement added.
Life expectancy is affected by mortality rates, but life expectancy calculations are forward-looking projections, while mortality rates are based on current factors.
The number of people who died — not the rate — went up in 2016. More than 2.7 million people died in the U.S. in 2016, a total of 31,618 more deaths than in 2015.
Life expectancy falls when people start dying at younger ages, and that’s what is happening in the U.S. with the epidemic of opioid overdoses.
“The escalating growth of opioid deaths is downright frightening – and it’s getting worse,” said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health.
“Every community has been impacted by this crisis and it’s getting lots of headlines, yet we’re not making the investments or taking the actions needed at anywhere near the level needed to turn the tide.”
The NCHS found that 63,600 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, and “the majority of these overdose deaths were unintentional,” the NCHS team, led by Dr. Holly Hedegaard, wrote.
The death rate from drug overdoses rose 18 percent a year from 2014 to 2016, the team reported. In 1999, 6.1 per 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. That rate rose to 19.8 per 100,000 in 2016.
By Maggie Fox
This article was originally published by NBC
The 21st Century