Life expectancy in the United States fell again as drug overdose deaths continued to increase – more than 70,000 people were living in 2017 and suicides increased, according to a US government report on Thursday.
The drug overdose rate increased by 9.6 percent compared with 2016, while suicide increased by 3.7 percent, said the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health Statistics Center.
As a result, the average lifespan in America fell to "78.6 years, a decline of 0.1 years from 2016," the report said.
The data comes as a gunpoint in the United States with a huge opioid epidemic, driven by dependency on prescription painkillers, and narcotics such as heroin and synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.
"The latest CDC data suggests that life expectancy in the United States has fallen in recent years. Tragically, this troublesome trend is largely due to deaths from drug overdose and suicide," said Robert Redfield, director of CDC.
"Lifelong life gives us an idea of the general health of the nation, and this witty statistics is a harassment call that we too many Americans lose too early and too often in conditions that can be prevented."
– "highly related" trend –
Overdose was a major contributor to the fact that in 2015 the life expectancy of the United States declined slightly for the first time in decades.
Another reduction was announced at the CDC in 2016, although these data were later revised to show a single year, said Robert Anderson, head of the mortality statistics branch at NCHS.
In general, statistics show that "the projected decline in life expectancy since 2014" is a period in which Americans have lost 0.3 years of life, he told AFP, describing the trend as "highly related".
Anderson said that such lows, as they were, had not been observed since last year of 1918 and the World War I major pandemic influenza, although these losses were more rapid.
The 80s in the HIV / AIDS epidemic also saw a decline in life expectancy.
"We are a developed country, we have a lot of resources, we should increase the life expectancy rather than reduce the life expectancy," he added.
Canadians live on average three years longer than Americans. Japan has the longest life span of nearly 84 years.
– "difficult to digest" –
Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl – which killed the musicians Prince and Tom Petty – and tramadol increased by 45 percent between 2016 and 2017.
Heroin deaths were seven times higher than in 1999.
Data from the CDC show that in 2017 over 70 237 people died of overdose.
Most of these deaths were by accident.
The increase – albeit dramatic, by almost 10 percent year-on-year, was about half a year ago.
In 2016, compared to 2015, 21.6% more people died of overdoses.
Also, the separate preliminary government data for the first half of 2018 showed that the number of deaths from overdoses was declining.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a health conference in October when the data came out that "the apparently merciless tendency to increase overdose deaths is likely to eventually precipitate in the right direction."
However, experts have encouraged interpretation of the results with caution in order to explain whether the opioid epidemic has reached its peak, or near-end.
"It's unburden to see that this starting trajectory will no doubt go down," said Harsal Kiran, director of the addiction service at the University of Staten Island, New York, who was not involved in data collection.
"What could be a sign of some real change would be the fact that the total number of deaths that are exceeded each year is actually decreasing," he told AFP.
"Seventy thousand deaths are difficult to digest as a positive result."