Medical

Opioid crisis leads to decline in average life expectancy — CDC

Opioid crisis leads to decline in average life expectancy — CDC

Suicide and drug overdose rates continued to rise in 2017, helping drive the number of US deaths to the highest total in more than 100 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a series of reports on mortality released Thursday. Broken down by gender, life expectancy remained the same for women at 81.1 years and ticked downward for men from 76.2 years to 76.1 years, the CDC reports.

Suicides and drug overdoses pushed up US deaths a year ago, and drove a continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live.

"These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable", Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, said in a statement.

According to the report titled "Mortality in the United States, 2017", the life expectancy for a baby born in 2017 fell to 78.6.

A class of synthetic drugs has replaced heroin in many major American drug markets, ushering in a more deadly phase of the opioid epidemic. In 2017, among people age 15 and older, rates were highest for adults age 25-34 and 35-44 at 38.4 and 39.0 per 100,000, respectively. Those small-seeming numbers also translate to meaningful real-world figures: there were 69,255 additional deaths in 2017 compared to 2016. Death rates went up for white Americans, while staying flat or dropping for other racial groups.

As drug overdose deaths have risen, so too have suicides, steadily increasing among already-suicide-prone men.

The 2017 numbers come despite the government's Healthy People 2020 goal to reduce suicide rates to 10.2 per 100,000 by 2020.

Age-adjusted suicide rates by sex United States 1999–2017
Age-adjusted suicide rates by sex United States 1999–2017

Other factors in the life expectancy decline include a spike in deaths from flu last winter and increases in deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's disease, strokes and suicide.

"Higher suicide rates in rural areas are due to almost 60 percent of rural homes having a gun versus less than half of homes in urban areas", Humphreys wrote in an email. Suicide deaths stood at 14 per 100,000 deaths in 2017. A tally of all drug overdoses showed 124 deaths, down from 132 the year prior; the count for opioid-related deaths showed an increase from 96 to 101.

In 2017, there were 47,000 suicides in the United States. For men, the number dropped by a 10th of a year to 76.1. By contrast, overdose deaths involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and other synthetic opioids (other than methadone) increased by 45 percent between 2016 and 2017, rising from about 6 deaths per 100,000 to 9 per 100,000.

"We're seeing the drop in life expectancy not because we're hitting a cap [for lifespans of] people in their 80s".

Most alarming is that suicide rate in the most rural counties in the U.S.is now 1.8 times the rate in the most urban counties: with the rate in most rural counties at 20.0 per 100,000, and in the most urban at 11.1 per 100,000. Cancer deaths declined by 2.1 percent in 2017, CNN noted.

Sharfstein said the most lamentable aspect of the crises is that policymakers know which approaches make a difference, such as medically assisted treatment for drug abusers and increased availability of mental health services in states where they are lacking.





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