U.S.

'A Wake-up Call': U.S. Life Expectancy Drops Thanks to High Suicide Rates, Drug Overdoses

Life expectancy in the U.S. continued to decline last year even though the 10 leading causes of death remained unchanged, three separate reports released on Thursday showed.

People born in the U.S. last year can expect to live until they are 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 years from the previous 12 months. Women are expected to live longer than men, with female life expectancy unchanged at 81.1 years in 2017, while male life expectancy decreased from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017.

GettyImages-1058171492 n elderly man walks with this ballot to a voting machine during the mid-term elections at the City Council building in Middleburg, Virginia on November 6. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the 10 leading causes of death in 2017 remain unchanged from the previous year: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide. 

Between them, these causes accounted for approximately 75 percent of total deaths across the U.S. last year.

A rise in increase in suicides and drug overdoses was the main factor behind the decline in life expectancy.

In a separate report, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reported the suicide rate increased by 3.7 percent. Suicide has consistently been among the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. over the past decade.

The rate of suicides has crept up from 10 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 14 last year. The rate among males increased by 26 percent over the 18-year period to 22 per 100,000 but for women it jumped 53 percent. However, women still commit suicide less often than men, at a rate of six per 100,000.

Meanwhile, the number of overdose deaths hit a new high last year, reaching 70,237.

The figure was 6,600 higher than in the previous 12 months. In 2017, there were 22 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, compared to six per 100,000 people in 1999.

The rates are significantly higher for men, increasing from eight men dying of overdose per 100,000 in 1999 to about 29 per 100,000 last year. By comparison, the rate for women has increased from four per 100,000 to 14.

Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said the increasing number of suicides and deaths by overdose was highly troubling.

"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation's overall health and these sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable," he said.

People between 25 and 54 years of age were the most likely to experience death from overdose, with 38 deaths per 100,000 people recorded in the age groups between 25 and 34 and between 45 and 54.

The rate increased to 39 per 100,000 among 35- to 44-year-olds.

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