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November 27, 2019

Trend continues of Americans dying younger, study shows

U.S. life expectancy declined for a third year largely impacted by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and disease

Adult Health Life Expectancy
Life expectancy decrease midlife PA Images/Sipa USA

The number of midlife deaths are on the rise in the United States and the rate bringing down the country's overall life expectancy rate. Researchers say deaths due to overdosing, suicide, and alcohol abuse, as well as diseases, are driving up deaths among those ages 25-64.

Life expectancy has been on the decline in the United States for a few years now, driven further downward by rising midlife morality rates.

In the results of a study published in JAMA this week, scientists say that the mortality rate among those ages 25-64 has increased since the 1990s due to drug overdoses, suicides, alcohol abuse, and a "diverse list of organ system disease." 

Americans' life expectancies increased by nearly 10 years between 1959 and 2016, but since then, the average lifespan in the U.S. slowly has begun to decline. Deaths per 100,000 people increased from 328.5 to 348.2 between 2010 and 2017. The study notes that cause-specific mortality increased in the 1990s leading to an increase in all-cause mortality by 2010. 

Between 1999 and 2017, fatal overdoses increased by 386.5%, researcher said, and alcohol abuse conditions, like chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, rose by 40.6%. 

Among the regions of the United States, New England and the Ohio Valley had the highest midlife death rates of any where in the country.

These areas have been affected most by the opioid epidemic and economic distress, Steven Woolf, one of the authors of the study, told ABC News. He said the U.S. Rust Belt, which includes the Great Lakes and Midwest, were hit hard during the 2008 recession. More than 2,000 jobs were lost by 2010 and the region still struggling to recover from the loss of manufacturing jobs. 

Scientists pulled data and looked at both all-cause mortality rates and cause-specific mortality data obtained through U.S. Mortality Database and CDC WONDER. The study also examined multiple sources of data for trends and potential contributory factors from 1990 to 2019. 


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