US Life Expectancy Going Down, With Opioid ODs a Big Factor

Marcia Frellick

September 20, 2018

Life expectancy at birth decreased for the first time in the United States since 1993 by 0.2 years from 2014 to 2015 and by another 0.1 years between 2015 and 2016, owing in part to an increase of drug overdoses, according to the latest annual report on the nation's health released today.

In 2016, life expectancy at birth was 76.1 years for males and 81.1 years for females.

In addition, the report from the National Center for Health Statistics that Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services presents to the president and to Congress shows that death rates are up for five of the leading 12 causes of death: unintentional injuries/accidents, Alzheimer's disease, suicide, chronic liver disease, and septicemia.

The Health, United States, 2017 report spotlights three of those causes: drug overdoses, suicides, and chronic liver disease; it includes the following statistics showing the change from 2006 to 2016:

  • The age-adjusted death rate for drug overdoses in the United States grew 72% to 19.8 deaths per 100,000 population, with most of those deaths attributed to opioids.

  • The age-adjusted suicide death rate increased 23%, from 11.0 to 13.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

  • For men aged 25 to 34, death rates for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis climbed by an average 7.9% per year; for women in this age group, the increase was 11.4% per year.

Some Positive Trends

There were some very positive trends in that decade, among them that the birth rate for persons aged 15 to 19 years dropped from 41.1 to a record US low of 20.3 live births per 1000 females.

Smoking rates were mixed. Although the percentage of high school students who smoke cigarettes dropped almost by half (from 15.8% in 2011 to 8% in 2016), use of electronic cigarettes soared from 1.5% to 11.3%.

Deaths from cancer continued to decline from 199.6 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 158.5 in 2015 to 155.8 in 2016.

Deaths from diabetes continued a slight decline from 25 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 21.3 in 2015 to 21 in 2016.

By age, unintentional injury, cancer, suicide, heart disease, homicide, and chronic liver disease were the top causes of death for people aged 25 to 44 in 2016.

For those aged 45 to 64, the two top causes of death were cancer and heart disease.

The report notes that in 2015-2016, the overall prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults aged 20 and older was 75% for men and 67.8% for women.

In those 2 years, the prevalence of grade 3 obesity (body mass index of at least 40) was almost twice as high among women as men (10% compared with 5.6%).

Additional information on more than 100 health indicators can be found in the full report.

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