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U.S. Life Expectancy Continues Downward Trend
"Public health and demographic experts reacted with alarm to the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual statistics, which are considered a reliable barometer of a society’s health," reports Lenny Bernstein who covers health and medicine for The Washington Post.
The CDC issues its health statistics report each December. The 2017 report pdf] is the third in a row to show a decline [or stagnation] in life expectancy.
Overall, Americans could expect to live 78.6 years at birth in 2017, down a tenth of a year from the 2016 estimate, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Among the 44 countries graphed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. had the 28th highest life expectancy in 2017. Switzerland and Japan were highest.
However, it's not end-of-life illnesses that are reducing American's life expectancy. Bernstein notes that "deaths from cancer continued their long, steady, downward trend, and deaths from heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans, which had been declining until 2011, continued to level off."
"The geographic disparity in overdose deaths continued in 2017," notes Bernstein. The 2017 national average was 21.7 per 100,000,
West Virginia again led the nation with 57.8 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. Nebraska, by contrast, had just 8.1 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.
In a companion report, the government detailed the ongoing growth of deaths from suicide, which has climbed steadily since 1999 and grown worse since 2006.
Most notable is the widening gap between urban and rural Americans. Suicide rates in the most rural counties are now nearly double those in the most urban counties.
Age-adjusted suicide rates, by county urbanization level: United States, 1999 and 2017
Credit: CDC/National Center for Health Statistics
“Higher suicide rates in rural areas are due to nearly 60 percent of rural homes having a gun versus less than half of homes in urban areas,” wrote Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, in an email. “Having easily available lethal means is a big risk factor for suicide.”
"The CDC had not touched firearm research since 1996 — when the NRA accused the agency of promoting gun control and Congress threatened to strip the agency’s funding," wrote Todd C. Frankel for The Washington Post on Jan. 14, 2015.
A Popular Science article, "The decline in U.S. life expectancy is unlike anything we've seen in a century," identifies a third factor — chronic liver disease, as a reason for the reduced life expectancy.
Related in Planetizen:
- Life expectancy varies by 20-years depending on region, May 11, 2017
People in Rural Areas Are Dying Earlier Than People in Urban Areas, January 18, 2017: Access to healthcare and city or suburban lifestyles seem to be tied to a longer life.
- Study: Geography Matters for Life Expectancy of Low Income Residents, April 12, 2016
Middle-Aged White Americans Take a Significant Turn for the Worse, November 24, 2015: A study supported by the CDC points to three reasons for the life expectancy being lower for Americans than in other developed nations.
Rural Suicides Far Exceed Urban Suicides, September 28, 2009
- United States
- West Virginia
- Social / Demographics
- Drug Overdose Deaths
- Life expectancy
- Liver Disease
- Mortality Rate
- Opioid Epidemic
- Public Health
- Regional Inequality
- Urban-Rural Divide
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Center for Health Statistics
- Stanford University
- Lenny Bernstein
- Sara Chodos
- Keith Humphreys
- Robert R. Redfield