U.S. Life Expectancy Falls as Overdoses Rise

U.S. Life Expectancy Falls as Overdoses Rise

Life expectancy in the United States fell for a third consecutive year in 2017, while the rate of death from drug overdose continued to rise, data briefs from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find.  

According to Mortality in the United States, 2017 (HTML or 8 pages, PDF), average life expectancy for the overall U.S. population fell to 78.6 years in 2017, from a revised 78.7 years in 2016, while for men it dropped to 76.1 years from 76.2 years; life expectancy for women remained flat at 81.1 years. The brief also found that the number of deaths per one hundred thousand increased significantly for those age 25 to 34 (up 2.9 percent between 2016 and 2017), age 35 to 44 (1.6 percent), and age 85 and older (1.4 percent), while it fell significantly for those between the ages of 45 and 54 (1.0 percent). Age-adjusted death rates rose slightly among white men (up 0.6 percent) and white women (0.9 percent) and fell among African-American women (0.8 percent). While there were no changes in the ten leading causes of death, age-adjusted death rates increased 5.9 percent for influenza and pneumonia, 4.2 percent for unintentional injuries, 3.7 percent for suicide, 2.4 percent for diabetes, and 2.3 percent for Alzheimer’s disease. 

The data brief Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2017 (HTML or 8 pages, PDF) reports that there were 70,237 deaths due to drug overdose in 2017, up from 63,632 in 2016, with rates increasing among all age groups but particularly high for those age 25 to 34 (38.4 per hundred thousand), 35 to 44 (39.0 per hundred thousand), and 45 to 54 (37.7 per hundred thousand). In addition, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths increased from 6.1 in 1999 to 21.7 in 2017, with rates among those age 55 to 64 increasing more than six-fold. The age-adjusted rate of death from drug overdose involving synthetic opioids other than methadone — including fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol — jumped 45 percent between 2016 and 2017, from 6.2 to 9.0 per hundred thousand, while West Virginia (57.8), Ohio (46.3), and Pennsylvania (44.3) had the highest age-adjusted drug overdose death rates.

"The latest CDC data show that the U.S. life expectancy has declined over the past few years," said CDC director Robert R. Redfield. "Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide. Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s overall health, and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable. CDC is committed to putting science into action to protect U.S. health, but we must all work together to reverse this trend and help ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier lives."

"Mortality in the United States, 2017." National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief 11/29/2018. "Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2017." National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief 11/29/2018. "CDC Director's Media Statement on U.S. Life Expectancy." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Press Release 11/29/2018.