US life expectancy falls for second straight year — as drug overdoses soar

Life expectancy in the United States fell for the second year in a row in 2016 — and it’s clear the epidemic of drug overdoses is at least in part to blame, government researchers said Thursday.

Overall life expectancy for a baby born in 2016 fell to 78.6 years, a small decline of 0.1 percent, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) team found. At the same time, mortality from drug overdoses rose by 21 percent.

16 PHOTOS
Health Rankings: Top 15 states
See Gallery
Health Rankings: Top 15 states

15. Idaho

Overall score: 0.356

(Photo by Darin Fan via Getty Images)

14. Rhode Island

Overall score: 0.422

(Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel via Getty Images)

13. New York

Overall score: 0.430

(Photo via Getty Images)

12. Nebraska

Overall score: 0.432

(Photo via Shutterstock)

11. North Dakota

Overall score: 0.473

(Photo by Joe Sohm via Getty Images)

10. Colorado

Overall score: 0.559

(Photo via Getty Images)

9. New Jersey

Overall score: 0.571

(Photo via Shutterstock / Andrew F. Kazmierski)

8. Utah

Overall score: 0.578

(Photo via Getty Images)

7. Washington

Overall score: 0.582

(Photo via Getty Images)

6. New Hampshire

Overall score: 0.696

(Photo via Alamy)

5. Vermont

Overall score: 0.709

(Photo via Getty Images)

4. Minnesota

Overall score: 0.727

(Photo via Shutterstock)

3. Connecticut

Overall score: 0.747

(Photo by Denis Jr. Tangney via Getty Images)

2. Massachusetts

Overall score: 0.760

(Photo via Getty Images)

1. Hawaii

Overall score: 0.905

(Photo via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

“This was the first time life expectancy in the U.S. has declined two years in a row since declines in 1962 and 1963,” the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

Related: You might be surprised at what kills us

“The new report shows the decline in life expectancy occurred despite an overall decline in U.S. mortality,” the statement added.

Life expectancy is affected by mortality rates, but life expectancy calculations are forward-looking projections, while mortality rates are based on current factors.

The number of people who died — not the rate — went up in 2016, however. More than 2.7 million people died in the U.S. in 2016, with a total of 31,618 more deaths than in 2015.

Drug overdoses accounted for a large proportion of these. The NCHS found that 63,600 people died of drug overdoses in 2016. “The majority of these overdose deaths were unintentional,” the NCHS team, led by Dr. Holly Hedegaard, wrote.

The death rate from drug overdoses rose 18 percent a year from 2014 to 2016, the team reported. In 1999, 6.1 per 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. That rate rose to 19.8 per 100,000 in 2016.

16 PHOTOS
Health Rankings: Bottom 15 states
See Gallery
Health Rankings: Bottom 15 states

36. Florida

Overall score: -0.307

(Photo via Getty Images)

37. Missouri

Overall score: -0.338

(Photo via Shutterstock)

38. New Mexico

Overall score: -0.363

(Photo via Getty Images)

39. Indiana

Overall score: -0.372

(Photo via Shutterstock)

40. Ohio

Overall score: -0.391

(Photo via Getty Images)

41. Georgia

Overall score: -0.464

(Photo by Sean Pavone via Getty Images)

42. South Carolina

Overall score: -0.531

(Photo via Getty Images)

43. West Virginia

Overall score: -0.595

(Photo via Getty Images)

44. Tennessee

Overall score: -0.626

(Photo via Alamy)

45. Kentucky

Overall score: -0.651

(Photo by Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

46. Oklahoma

Overall score: -0.691

(Photo via Getty Images)

47. Alabama

Overall score: -0.793

(Photo via Getty Images)

48. Arkansas

Overall score: -0.834

(Photo by Wesley Hitt via Getty Images)

49. Louisiana

Overall score: -1.043

(Photo via Alamy)

50. Mississippi

Overall score: -1.123

(Photo via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Related: U.S. death rate rises

There’s been a big increase in deaths from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and tramadol. There’s been a somewhat smaller increase in heroin deaths, the team found.

Overdose deaths count as injuries, and unintentional injuries became the third leading cause of death in 2016, after heart disease and cancer. “Chronic lower respiratory diseases, the third leading cause in 2015, became the fourth leading cause in 2016,” the NCHS said.

Men were far more likely to die from drug overdoses than women were, but other reports have found a growing number of opiate overdoses among women.

Still, as in other countries, American men die younger than women.

Male life expectancy fell from 76.3 years in 2015 to 76.1 in 2016, while female life expectancy stayed steady at 81.1, the NCHS said.

Related: Who lives longest? Coloradans win

If you make it to age 65, you’ll likely live longer than 78 years. People who were 65 years old in 2016 can expect to live another 19 years, the NCHS team projected. It breaks down to almost 21 years more for women and 18 years more for men.

U.S. life expectancy does not stack up well compared to other rich countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development keeps an index of life expectancy and the U.S. falls in between Chile and Turkey in terms of average rates, and far behind Britain, France or Greece.

Iceland, Switzerland and Japan have the longest life expectancies and South Africa has the lowest.

Related: When U.S. life expectancy hit a new high

The team also looked at the infant mortality rate, which barely changed in 2016 but which also falls behind the records of other developed countries.

“The 10 leading causes of infant death in 2016 accounted for 67.5 percent of all infant deaths in the United States,” the report reads. They include congenital birth defects, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.

In 2016, 23,161 babies under the age of 1 year died in the U.S, 294 fewer than in 2015. 

Read Full Story