U.S. life expectancy slightly increases for first time in four years

Life expectancy in the U.S. inched up for the first time in four years, according to two reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The primary contributor to the uptick was a decrease in cancer deaths, followed by a slight drop in drug overdoses.

“After years of plateauing and declining US life expectancy, this one-year uptick is certainly welcome news,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a January 29, 2020 CNN article. “However, we need much more detailed evaluation over time to judge whether declining trends are truly being reversed in a sustained fashion.”

Koh said that more research is needed to determine whether the improved U.S. life expectancy holds true for broad populations across the country or specific demographics.

According to Koh the overall decline in drug overdose deaths is “notable” and may reflect the increasing availability of naloxone, a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, and the greater attention to treatment and care.

“However, rising deaths from synthetic opioids — as well as from cocaine and methamphetamine — represent the next disturbing wave of the nation’s ongoing substance use challenge,” he said.

Read the CNN.com article: US life expectancy climbs for the first time in 4 years as drug overdose and cancer deaths decline