U.S. life expectancy down again

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has released statistics on life expectancy and causes of death for 2016. Some interesting findings:

  • Overall average life expectancy fell by 0.1 year, from 78.7 to 78.6 years.
  • The average masks the finding that for women, life expectancy held steady at 81.1 years while for men, it decreased by 0.2 years from 76.3 to 76.1 years.
  • Deaths from disease were down in almost every category. The increases come from “unintentional injury” and suicide. Unintentional injury sounds like car accidents and falling off a ladder, and it does include those things. But dig a little bit and it includes “poisoning”, and poisoning in turn includes drug overdose.

The Guardian explains that life expectancy has fallen two years in a row and how unusual that is:

Drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans in 2016, an increase of 21% over the previous year, researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics found.

Americans can now expect to live 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 years. The US last experienced two years’ decline in a row in 1963, during the height of the tobacco epidemic and amid a wave of flu.

“We do occasionally see a one-year dip, even that doesn’t happen that often, but two years in a row is quite striking,” said Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch with the National Center for Health Statistics. “And the key driver of that is the increase in drug overdose mortality.”

The article goes on to explain that the last time we saw three years of decline was during the Spanish flu epidemic 100 years ago.

Comparing any two years could easily be a statistical blip, as any climate science denier could tell you. But it seems clear that over time the U.S. is losing ground to its peers in the developed world. The solution our elected politicians have identified, of course, is to take away health care and mental health coverage from the working class.

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