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Opioid deaths drag down overall life expectancy in the U.S.

Nov. 9, 2017—From 2000 to 2015, life expectancy in the U.S. jumped by two years. But deaths from drug poisoning worked against this, and opioids are mostly to blame.

Life expectancy in the U.S.

A new study tracked national life expectancy and causes of death. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from 2000 to 2015.

People born in 2000 can expect to live 76.8 years on average. For those born in 2015, that number is now 78.8 years.

Death rates related to cancer, heart disease and diabetes dropped. Those linked to influenza and pneumonia, respiratory diseases and kidney disease all decreased too.

But deaths from drug poisoning more than doubled. And deaths related to opioid use more than tripled.

Other causes hurt life expectancy as well. Death rates from unintentional injury and Alzheimer's disease increased. So did those from chronic liver disease and suicide.

Important trends

From 2000 to 2015, drug-poisoning deaths caused a loss of 0.28 years of overall life expectancy. This impact was just as significant as all other leading causes of death combined.

And the researchers noted that opioid-related deaths are probably underreported. Many death certificates don’t list a specific drug in the case of drug-poisoning deaths.

While life expectancy in the U.S. increased over the 15-year period studied, it actually decreased from 2014 to 2015. It’s now lower than in most high-income countries. Researchers expect this trend to continue.

This information shows how important it is to solve the opioid problem. Preventing these deaths will help life expectancy in the U.S. make healthy gains again.

The study was published in JAMA.

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