Life expectancy in the United States has dropped for the 3rd year in a row, the first time that’s happened since the World War I era of 1915-1918.

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Statistics list life expectancy for a person living in the United States is 78.6, which is down from 78.7 a year go. Males can expect to live 76.1 years while females live exactly five years longer at 81.1 years of age

According to the CDC, the primary reason for the life expectancy drop is due to increased suicide rates and the opioid crisis in America. Back in 1915-1918, the primary cause of life expectancy drops were attributed to both WWI and a massive flu outbreak in 1918 that claimed 675,000 lives.

Suicides claimed more than 47,000 lives in 2017 and on average, 21.1 men per 100,000 take their own lives.

Meanwhile, drug overdoses claimed a record number of lives at 70,327, which is up from 63,632 in 2016. The primary drugs that caused the most overdoses were from street drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, which claimed almost 48,000 lives. Narcotics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone killed nearly 15,000 people, which is close to the same number of deaths the year before.

The most sobering statistic in all of this is that the number of drug overdoses has quadrupled since 1999 and has seen a steady increase since 2006.

On the bright side, cancer related deaths in the US are trending steadily downward as well as deaths related to heart disease, the number one killer of Americans had leveled off after seeing steady decreases until the first part of the decade.

The CDC study also shows that rural areas are hit hardest by mortality with more cases of both drug overdoses and suicides. It’s also noted in the findings that households with easy access to a lethal means of suicide are more likely to go through with an attempt and succeed.

West Virginia leads the nation in drug overdoses with 58.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia are next on the list. Meanwhile, the lowest drug overdose rate can be found in Nebraska, at 5.8 deaths per 100,000 Americans.

In spite of the decline in America, the world overall has actually seen an increase in mortality. Spain is number one with 85.8 years while Japan is second with 85.7, according to a report in The Lancer. Singapore, Switzerland, and Portugal round out the top five.


Brandon Howard is a Grit Post contributor, auto worker, and former public radio reporter based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @mrpowerhoward.

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