Published: Thu, September 21, 2017
Medicine | By Megan Pierce

Opioid crisis lowers United States life expectancy

Opioid crisis lowers United States life expectancy

The skyrocketing number of opioid deaths in the U.S. has shaved more than two months off the average American lifespan, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As the opioid crisis continues to claim the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year, a new study shows that these overdoses are impacting the overall life expectancy in the U.S. The contributors crunched the numbers recorded by the National Vital Statistics System Mortality file, a storehouse of death data from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, from between 2000 to 2015. This increase was primarily driven by a surge in opioid-related overdose deaths, which more than tripled over the same time period.

However, drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis all increased between 2000 and 2014, and accounted for shortening life expectancy rates between two and a half to three months.

Those estimates could very well be an underestimation.

The new average lifespan in 2015 would have been.21 years higher without the rising total of fatal drug overdoses, the CDC said.

However, deaths from drug overdoses more than doubled from 2000 to 2015. Deadly overdoses now outstrip vehicle accidents, gun homicides and HIV deaths during the peak years of those epidemics.

Putting all that aside, though, if part of America's presumed greatness is its life expectancy, then we're certainly losing steam.

Equally concerning is that life expectancy gains in the United States have slowed, especially compared to other high-income countries.

The average life expectancy for an American born in 2010 was 76.8 years, which grew to 78.8 years in 2015.

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