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US Life Expectancy Falls Further

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released data that shows life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, to 78.6 years (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), pushed down by the sharpest annual increase in suicide in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from opioid drugs. “Influenza, pneumonia and diabetes also factored into last year’s increase,” The Wall Street Journal adds. From the report: Economists and public-health experts consider life expectancy to be an important measure of a nation’s prosperity. The 2017 data paint a dark picture of health and well-being in the U.S., reflecting the effects of addiction and despair, particularly among young and middle-aged adults, as well as diseases plaguing an aging population and people with lower access to health care. The U.S. has lost three-tenths of a year in life expectancy since 2014, a stunning reversal for a developed nation, and lags far behind other wealthy nations. Life expectancy is 84.1 years in Japan and 83.7 years in Switzerland, first and second in the most-recent ranking by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. ranks 29th.

White men and women fared the worst, along with black men, all of whom experienced increases in death rates. Death rates rose in particular for adults ages 25 to 44, and suicide rates are highest among people in the nation’s most rural areas. On the other hand, deaths declined for black and Hispanic women, and remained the same for Hispanic men. As drug and suicide mortality has risen, deaths from heart disease, the nation’s leading killer, went down only slightly, failing to offset the increases in mortality from other causes and prolonging another worrisome trend.

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