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United States life expectancy drops, overdoses climb - govt report

30 November 2018

Life expectancy in 1918 was 39. That period included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the United States.

Public health and demographic experts reacted with alarm to the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual statistics, which are considered a reliable barometer of a society's health.

Life expectancy in the going down and it has researchers shaking their heads.

"There are not a lot of resources that we have available", she said. "Or can we say this is a tractable problem?"

According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, last year more than 2.8 million people died, an increase from the year before.

In 2017, there were 70,237 fatal drug overdoses - an increase of 9.6 percent from 2016.

Another major contributor to declining life expectancy is the rising rate of suicides, which took more than 47,000 lives a year ago.

"Tragically, this troubling trend [in life expectancy] is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide", CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. In 2017, that rate had increased by 16 percent, to 11.1 deaths per 100,000. There were 38 in 2017, increasing to 44 so far in 2018. Those totals were virtually identical to the numbers in 2016. They are usually more potent, meaning small errors in measurement can lead to an overdose.

Meanwhile, the use of overdose-preventing drugs like narcan is being actively objected to by police forces around the country, as many refuse to carry the opioid antidote. "We need to intervene in both mental and public health cases", Dr Reed says.

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"The opioid market has been completely taken over by fentanyl", Sharfstein said.

As you can see in the map (linked here and embedded below), the areas most affected by high rates of death are concentrated in the Southeast and parts of the Southwest.

The geographic disparity in overdose deaths continued in 2017. West Virginia again led the nation with 57.8 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. However, deaths in younger groups have the biggest impact on life expectancy calculations.

The 10 leading causes of death remained the same, with heart disease and cancer at the top of the list. The CDC did not release state rates for suicides. The 2017 report is the third in a row to show a decline in life expectancy. "Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world".

In a third report, the government detailed the ongoing growth of deaths from suicide, which has climbed steadily since 1999 and grown worse since 2006.

In 2017, the suicide rate for the most rural counties (20 per 100,000) outpaced that in the most urban counties (about 11 per 100,000). Suicide rates in the most rural counties are now almost double those in the most urban counties.

The report, called "Suicide Mortality in the United States, 1999-2017", was based on government records. By comparison, the rate for women has increased from four per 100,000 to 14.

This should force every politician and medical professional to reckon with a simple fact: Recent efforts to solve the opioid crisis by limiting access to prescription opioids appear to have done little, if anything, to help save lives.

United States life expectancy drops, overdoses climb - govt report

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