Life Expectancy In The U.S. Is Down. A Rise In Suicide Is One Reason Why

Dec 3, 2018

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

With Anthony Brooks

Americans are dying younger and death by suicide is a big reason why. We’ll look behind the rising numbers and talk about how to save lives.


Alia Dastagir, enterprise reporter for USA Today. (@alia_e)

Dr. Christine Moutier, psychiatrist, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (@cmoutierMD)

Leslie Marsh, CEO of the Lexington Regional Health Center in Lexington, Nebraska. National Rural Health Association (NRHA) chair of the Constituency Group for Hospitals and Health Systems.

From The Reading List

USA Today: “Series: Surviving Suicide

NPR: “U.S. Life Expectancy Drops Amid ‘Disturbing’ Rise In Overdoses And Suicides” — “For the second time in three years, life expectancy in the U.S. has ticked downward. In three reports issued Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out a series of statistics that revealed some troubling trend lines — including rapidly increasing rates of death from drug overdoses and suicide.

“CDC Director Robert Redfield described the data as ‘troubling.’

“‘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,’ he said in a statement released Thursday.

“Redfield tied the drop in overall life expectancy, which averaged 78.6 years in 2017, a decrease of 0.1 from the year before, to the rise in deaths from overdose and suicide.

“More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year alone, according to the CDC. That number marks a nearly 10 percent increase from 2016 and the highest ever in the United States for a single year. By comparison, only about 17,000 people died of overdoses in 1999, the earliest year for which the CDC offered data Thursday.”

ABC News: “Suicide, at 50-year peak, pushes down US life expectancy” — “Suicides and drug overdoses pushed up U.S. deaths last year, and drove a continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live.

“Overall, there were more than 2.8 million U.S. deaths in 2017, or nearly 70,000 more than the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. It was the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago.

“The increase partly reflects the nation’s growing and aging population. But it’s deaths in younger age groups — particularly middle-aged people — that have had the largest impact on calculations of life expectancy, experts said.”

Rolling Stone: “Life Expectancy Is Going Down Because of ODs and Suicides” — “Life expectancy in the United States has dropped for the third year in a row, as suicide and overdose deaths continue to rise, according to a new report released Thursday by the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. The average American life expectancy dipped just slightly from 78.7 years in 2016 to 78.6 in 2017. This may not seem significant on its own, but when taken as part of the three-year trend, we’re in the midst of the longest-lasting decline in life expectancy in the U.S. since World War I.

“Deaths from heart disease and cancer, the country’s two leading causes of death, have continued their steady decline, but that drop was outpaced by the increase in suicides and accidental injuries, including drug overdose.

“Drug overdose deaths specifically reached a new record high, at 70,237 recorded in 2017. That’s an increase of 9.6 percent over 2016’s numbers. One major culprit in the rise in overdose deaths is synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Deaths from those drugs jumped by 45 percent from 2016 to 2017.

“The silver lining is that while overdose deaths are still climbing, the rate of increase is slowing down, compared to the 21-percent increase between 2015 and 2016. This could mean that harm reduction initiatives, like increasing the awareness and availability of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose, are starting to work. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Surgeon General both highlight naloxone access as a key to preventing overdose death, and provide information on where to get the drug and receive training on how to administer it to someone in distress.”

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