Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines for Second Time in Five Years

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Suicides, drug overdoses leading culprits

Life expectancy for the average person in the U.S. dropped slightly in 2017, thanks in large part to the continuing rise in drug overdose deaths and suicides.

It marks the second time in recent years that U.S. life expectancy has fallen, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Babies born in 2017 have an estimated average life expectancy of 78.6 years, according to the report. That’s down from 78.7 years in 2016 and 2015 and 78.9 years in 2014, the researchers said. Prior to 2015, U.S. life expectancy had not declined for several decades.

The 2017 decline was due to a drop in life expectancy among men, who saw their estimated life expectancy at birth decline from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017. Life expectancy for women in 2017 remained unchanged from 2016, at 81.1 years

The report also found that the life expectancy decline was largely due to increases in deaths from unintentional injuries, suicide, and diabetes. Increases in deaths from unintentional injuries—a category that includes accidental drug overdose—played the biggest role in the decline in life expectancy in 2017, the report said.

“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. “Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s overall health, and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

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Rob Senior
Rob Senior

Rob has 15 years of experience writing and editing for healthcare. He previously worked for ADVANCE from 2002 to 2012.

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