U.S. life expectancy drops again

The latest statistics about life expectancy in the U.S. paint a bleak picture: 2017 is the third year in a row in which life expectancy declined. On average, Americans can expect to live until age 78.6, down from 78.9 in 2014.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the decline is being driven by drug overdoses—up from 63,632 in 2016 to 70,237 in 2017—and suicides, which have been increasing since 1999. The rate of drug deaths is higher in certain parts of the U.S., including West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The suicide rate in most rural areas is almost double that of urban areas.

There was also a spike in deaths from last winter’s flu and increases in deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke, according to the CDC.

In a November 29, 2018 article in the Washington Post, S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, asked, “After three years of stagnation and decline, what do we do now? Do we say this is the new normal? Or can we say this is a tractable problem?”

Read the Washington Post article: U.S. life expectancy declines again, a dismal trend not seen since World War I