US Life Expectancy Decreases For Second Straight Year

DECEMBER 21, 2017
Kevin Kunzmann
CDC, US life expectancy, death rates, opioids, deaths, drugs, overdoseThe average US life expectancy has decreased for a second consecutive year for just the first time in a half-century.

In a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), as part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers noted that the life expectancy in the US population was 78.6 years in 2016 — a 0.1 decrease from 2015.

This is the first recorded drop in average US life expectancy in 2 consecutive years since 1962 and 1963.

Similar to 2015, the age-specific death rate for younger age groups increased last year, while older age groups experienced another decrease. The greatest death rate increase came in persons aged 25 to 34 years old, as their deaths per 100,000 population increased from 116.7 in 2015, to 129 (10.54%) in 2016.

No other age group recorded an increase greater than 8% in deaths per 100,000 between 2015 and 2016.

The life expectancy decrease has also been mostly due to males, as theirs dropped from 76.3 years in 2015 to 76.1 in 2016. The life expectancy of women did not change, at 81.1 years.

The total rate of US resident deaths reported in 2016 was 2,744,248 — an increase of 31,618 deaths (1.17%) from 2015. Heart disease and cancer were again the substantial leaders in cause of death, registering 168.5 and 158.5 deaths per 100,000 US population, respectively. However, both rates were a slight decrease from 2015 deaths.

Among other leading causes of death, chronic lower respiratory diseases (-2.4%), stroke (-0.8%), diabetes (-1.41%), influenza and pneumonia (-11.18%), and kidney disease (-2.24%) decreased from their 2015 deaths per 100,000 population rates.

Meanwhile, unintentional injury (9.72%), Alzheimer’s disease (3.06%), and suicide (1.5%) increased as causes of death per 100,000 population.

Drug overdose deaths continue to be among the most increasing causes of death annually in the US, according to a separate NCHS data brief. According to the report, which uses the most recent data from the National Vital Statistics System, there more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2016 — a rate greater than influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.

In fact, overdose deaths accounted for 2.32% of all US deaths in 2016.

The overdose death rates per population for both males and the 25-to-34-year-old age group correlates with the increased overall death rates per population. According to the report, the rate of overdose deaths in males per 100,000 population increased from 8.2 in 1999 to 26.2 in 2016 (225%).

The overdose death rate in persons aged 25 to 34 similarly spiked in that timeline. It reached 34.6 per 100,000 population in 2016, having increased 29% just from its 2015 rate.

Deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) have raised by 88% annually for the past 4 years. After being involved in just 1 death per 100,000 population in 2013, the synthetics opioids increased to 1.8 in 2014, 3.1 in 2015, and 6.2 in 2016.

Among the 16.4 deaths per 100,000 population involving non-methadone synthetic opioids; heroin; natural and semisynthetic opioids; and methadone, synthetic opioids comprised more than 37% of all drug overdose-related deaths.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health this year comparably reported rising rates of drug use in young adults during the opioid epidemic. The researchers noted that persons born between 1979 and 1992 — as well as between 1947 and 1964 (the Baby Boomers generation) — are most afflicted by the epidemic.

“The new risk factor identified in our study — birth cohorts known as baby-boomers and millennials — should be incorporated into pain management plans, including risk assessment and risk reduction,” senior author Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told MD Magazine.

The researchers added that previous studies show that national statistics may still understate the rate of opioid-related deaths, as about 25% of US drug overdose-related death certificates lacked drug information.

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