A surge in fatal opioid overdoses dragged down life expectancy in the United States for the second time in a row during 2016, according to federal officials.
Life Expectancy Nudges Down In The United States
The downward spiral is concerning because life expectancy is considered to be a significant indicator of the general well-being and good health of a country. It gives an overall sense of what is taking place in a nation.
"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," said Robert Anderson, who is the mortality statistics branch chief at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed.”
Anderson further said that drug overdose is a public health problem, which has to be addressed and the country needs to get a handle on it.
Life expectancy, which indicates the average age a that a person is expected to survive, has been increasing steadily in the country in general, with only occasional falls. 1993 was the last time life expectancy had dropped in the country due to the epidemic of AIDS.
Life expectancy in the United States, however, hasn’t fallen two years consecutively since the early 1960s. Therefore, the situation is quite worrisome, according to Anderson. The latest report by CDC shows that the nation’s life expectancy fell to 78.6 in 2016 from 78.7 in 2015, which itself was a fall from 2014’s 78.9.
Anderson explained that the figures might not mean a lot to any individual. However, when it concerns an entire population, then it indicates that a crucial number of potential lives are not being lived.
Surge In Fatal Opioid Overdoses
There are many factors that play a part in the increasing decrease of life expectancy, which includes a plateau in heart disease-related death reductions. The significant reason for the upswing in deaths, however, is due to opioid overdoses, according to Anderson.
There have been scores of thousands of deaths in the United States in recent years due to opioid overdoses. A CDC report showed that drug overdoses shot up alarmingly in 2016 to over 63,600, more than 42,200 of which were due to opioids. In comparison, the number of opioid overdose deaths in 2015 was around 33,000.
The drug overdose death rate related to synthetic opioids also shot up noticeably to 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016 from 3.1 per 100,000 in 2015. Anderson added that the increase was dramatic and far more than other one-year increases to date. The upward trend indicates the epidemic seems to be accelerating and it is something to be worried about.