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May 21, 2019

Increase in drug overdoses and suicides help drive U.S. deaths to highest total in 100 years

November 29, 2018
A fentanyl user holds a needle near Kensington and Cambria in Philadelphia. Suicides and drug overdoses helped lead a surge in U.S. deaths last year, and drove a continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live. (David Maialetti / AP)

The rate of drug overdoses and suicides in the U.S. saw a spike in 2017, contributing to a drop in life expectancy for Americans and the country’s highest death count in more than 100 years, according to new government data.

There were more than 2.8 million U.S. deaths in 2017, which is nearly 70,000 more than the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control said in a report on mortality released Thursday. It marks the most deaths in a single year since the government started the tally more than a century ago.

The figure is reflective of an older and aging America, but the decline in life expectancy is primarily due to increased death rates in younger and middle-aged people.

“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,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, said in a statement.

Overall, life expectancy for Americans in 2017 was 78.6 years, a decrease from 78.7 years in 2016.

The increase is driven in part by by an alarming 9.6% increase in drug overdose deaths, from just under 64,000 in 2016 to more than 70,000 in 2017, according to the report. Suicide rates also continued to rise.

“The suicide rates in the United States has increased from 10.4 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 (per 100,000 in 2017,” according to the report.

“Suicide rates have increased since 1999 for both males and females ages 10-74. Rates in the most rural U.S counties are nearly two times higher than rates in most urban countries.

The 10 leading causes of death remained the same between 2016 and 2017 with heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries claiming the top spots while influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide rounded out the list.

With News Wire Services

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