Deaths from drug overdoses, the growing wealth inequality, rising poverty and a poor diet are among the main factors reducing life expectancy in the United States in recent years, an American analyst says.
“It’s rare that you see a country that’s classified as a First World nation, or a high-income nation, actually experience a decline in life expectancy and there’s several reasons for this,” said Keith Preston.
“It’s been pointed that the rate of drug overdoses has increased dramatically in recent years, largely through the widespread use of opioid drugs,” Preston said on Thursday.
“The rate of life expectancy is declining for other reasons,” including the widening wealth gap, increasing poverty, heart disease and poor dietary habits, Preston said.
US deaths from drug overdoses skyrocketed 21 percent last year, and for the second straight year dragged down how long Americans are expected to live, according to US government figures released Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put last year’s drug deaths at 63,600, up from about 52,000 in 2015. Preliminary 2017 figures show the rise in overdose deaths continuing.
A baby born last year in the US is expected to live about 78 years and 7 months, on average, the CDC said. An American born in 2015 was expected to live about month longer and one born in 2014 about two months longer than that.
The dip in 2015 was blamed on drug deaths and an unusual upturn in the death rate for the nation’s leading killer, heart disease. Typically, life expectancy goes back up after a one-year decline, said Robert Anderson, who oversees the CDC’s death statistics. The last time there was a two-year drop was 1962-1963.
“If we don’t get a handle on this, we could very well see a third year in a row, with no end in sight,” Anderson said.
Overall, there were more than 2.7 million US deaths in 2016, or about 32,000 more than the previous year. It was the most deaths in a single year since the government has been counting.