For the second year, life expectancy is shortened due to drug overdoses

Life expectancy falls when people start dying at younger ages, and that's what is happening in the USA with the epidemic of opioid overdoses. For the first time, the powerful painkiller fentanyl and its close opioid cousins played a bigger role in the deaths than any other legal or illegal drug, surpassing prescription pain pills and heroin.

The death rate from drug overdoses rose 18 percent a year from 2014 to 2016, the team reported. It's worth noting that most drug overdose deaths are classified as unintentional injuries.

Preliminary 2017 figures show the rise in overdose deaths continuing.

The report also found death rates - calculated from the number of deaths per 100,000 people - actually rose among young adults between 2015 and 2016.

In the past few years, however, cardiovascular deaths have flattened while overdose deaths have gone up, allowing the deaths of younger Americans to impact overall life expectancy, he said. Typically, life expectancy goes back up after a one-year decline, said Robert Anderson, who oversees the CDC's death statistics. "We need to get a handle on it". But last year marked the first time in more than a half century that USA life expectancy fell two consecutive years. The last time U.S. life expectancy last fell two years in a row was in 1962 and 1963, as the generation who came of age in World War II began to die of heart disease and cigarette-related cancers, according to Princeton University economist Angus Deaton, who spoke to Buzzfeed. For decades, it was on the upswing, rising a few months almost every year.

The CDC also reported that West Virginia continued to be the state with the highest drug overdose death rate followed by OH and New Hampshire.


First, 2016 was one of the most lethal years for drug overdoses. That partly reflects the nation's growing and aging population. West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania have the highest rates.

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.

Even Costa Rica, a country with far lower per capita income, and which spends far less on healthcare, significantly outperforms the U.S. on life expectancy. Contributing were increases in deaths from auto crashes and falls. Life expectancy for women at birth is 81.1 years, compared to 76.1 years for men.

The United States ranks below dozens of other high-income countries in life expectancy, according to the World Bank.

Iceland, Switzerland and Japan have the longest life expectancies, and South Africa has the lowest. They include congenital birth defects, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.

"Fentanyl is king now", said Dr. Dan Ciccarone, an epidemiologist at the University of California-San Francisco who studies the epidemic.

  • Sylvester Abbott