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Suicide, opioids tied to ongoing fall in US life expectancy: Third year of drop

March 25, 2019
By: Julia Haskins, The Nation's Health

American life expectancy continues to decline, with high mortality rates largely fueled by suicide and drug overdoses — both growing public health crises that reflect deficiencies across many social determinants of health.

In November, the National Center for Health Statistics published data briefs on three critical trends in public health: Life expectancy in the U.S. declined to 78.6 years in 2017 from 78.7 in 2016. The rate of drug overdose deaths, largely driven by opioids, was 9.6 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, and 3.6 times the rate in 1999. And from 1999 to 2017, the rate of suicide increased 33 percent.

The findings were particularly alarming to the public health community because it is the third year in a row that U.S. life expectancy has dropped. Life expectancy among women remained the same in 2017, at 81.1 years, but in men fell from 76.2 years to 76.1 years.

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