Life expectancy rates in the United States dropped in 2017 for the third year in a row, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.
From 2016 to 2017, the life expectancy for the average American declined from 78.7 years to 78.6. More than 2.8 millions Americans died in 2017, which was nearly 70,000 more than the previous year.
While these numbers may appear minimal, the last multi-year drop in life expectancy recorded by the CDC was in the 1960s.
A variety of factors – including the opioid crisis and increase in suicides – contributed to the decline in life expectancy.
According to the report, deaths from suicide rose by 3.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, while overdose deaths from opioids like fentanyl and heroin rose by 45 percent.
“Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide. Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said in a statement.
The states with the highest amounts of drug-related deaths in 2017 were West Virginia (57.8 deaths per 100,000 people) and Ohio (46.3 deaths per 100,000 people).
President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national health emergency in October of 2017 and floated the idea of pursuing the death penalty for drug dealers.
In order to combat the epidemic, the Trump administration opened the CrisisNextDoor.gov website, which allows Americans to share their stories regarding opioid addiction.
The positive aspects of the report included a decline in heart disease and cancer-related deaths. Cancer death rates fell by over 2 percent, which likely reflects better screening, declining smoking rates and expanded vaccination against HPV-related cancers.