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U.S. Life Expectancy Cut Due To Suicides And Overdoses

A baby born last year in the U.S. is expected to live about 78 years and 7 months, on average.

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Suicide, Life expectancy
A young volunteer helps set up lights in paper bags decorated with messages for loved ones during an Out of the Darkness Walk event organized by the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. VOA

Suicides and drug overdoses helped lead a surge in 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.

 

Prince, Drugs, Overdose, Life expectancy
A mural honoring the late Prince adorns a building in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, Aug 28, 2016. The rock star died of an overdose at the age of 57. VOA

 

The suicide death rate last year was the highest it’s been in at least 50 years, according to U.S. government records. There were more than 47,000 suicides, up from a little less than 45,000 the year before.

A general decline

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was on the upswing, rising a few months nearly every year. Now it’s trending the other way: It fell in 2015, stayed level in 2016, and declined again last year, the CDC said.

The nation is in the longest period of a generally declining life expectancy since the late 1910s, when World War I and the worst flu pandemic in modern history combined to kill nearly 1 million Americans. Life expectancy in 1918 was 39.

Aside from that, “we’ve never really seen anything like this,’’ said Robert Anderson, who oversees CDC death statistics.

Suicide, Life expectancy
A makeshift memorial for actor Robin Wlliiams is shown outside a home which was used in the filming of the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire”, Aug. 15, 2014, in San Francisco. Authorities said Williams committed suicide. (VOA)

In the nation’s 10 leading causes of death, only the cancer death rate fell in 2017. Meanwhile, there were increases in seven others: suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries.

An underlying factor is that the death rate for heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, has stopped falling. In years past, declines in heart disease deaths were enough to offset increases in some other kinds of death, but no longer, Anderson said.

The CDC’s numbers do sometimes change. This week, CDC officials said they had revised their life expectancy estimate for 2016 after some additional data came in.

What’s driving this?

CDC officials did not speculate about what’s behind declining life expectancy, but Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University, sees a sense of hopelessness.

Suicide, Life expectancy
Women cry after placing flowers in a square in central Manchester, Britain, May 24, 2017, after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left more than 20 people dead. VOA

Financial struggles, a widening income gap and divisive politics are all casting a pall over many Americans, he suggested.

“I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide,’’ he said.

Drug overdose deaths also continued to climb, surpassing 70,000 last year, in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history. The death rate rose 10 percent from the previous year, smaller than the 21 percent jump seen between 2016 and 2017.

That’s not quite a cause for celebration, said Dr. John Rowe, a professor of health policy and aging at Columbia University.

“Maybe it’s starting to slow down, but it hasn’t turned around yet,’’ Rowe said. “I think it will take several years.”

Suicide, Life expectancy
Dorothy Paugh, a suicide prevention advocate, lost her father and her son to suicide. VOA

Accidental drug overdoses account for more than a third of the unintentional injury deaths, and intentional drug overdoses account for about a tenth of the suicides, said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, a CDC injury epidemiologist.

Other findings

The CDC figures are based mainly on a review of 2017 death certificates. The life expectancy figure is based on current death trends and other factors.

Also Read: Suicide Rates On The Rise Among U.S. Workers

The agency also said:

  • A baby born last year in the U.S. is expected to live about 78 years and 7 months, on average. An American born in 2015 or 2016 was expected to live about a month longer, and one born in 2014 about two months longer than that.
  • The suicide rate was 14 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s the highest since at least 1975.
  • The percentage of suicides from drug overdose has been inching downward.
  • Deaths from flu and pneumonia rose by about 6 percent. The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the worst in more than a decade, and some of the deaths from early in that season appeared in the new death dates.
  • West Virginia was once again the state with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths. The CDC did not release state rates for suicides.
  • Death rates for heroin, methadone and prescription opioid painkillers were flat. But deaths from the powerful painkiller fentanyl and its close opioid cousins continued to soar in 2017.
  • The CDC did not discuss 2017 gun deaths in the reports released Thursday. But earlier CDC reports noted increase rates of suicide by gun and by suffocation or hanging. (VOA)

Next Story

Vaping Can Lead to Chronic Disease in Lungs known as “Popcorn Injury”

This novel disease pattern of airway injury associated with vaping leading to chronic obstruction appears to be distinct from the alveolar injury

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Vaping
Novel disease pattern of airway injury associated with Vaping leading to chronic obstruction appears to be distinct from the alveolar injury characterizing the EVALI . Pixabay

In yet another serious health alert on e-cigarette use, researchers have documented first-ever case of a new form of damage from Vaping products in a youth which is similar to “popcorn lung,” a condition seen in workers exposed to food flavouring fumes in microwave popcorn factories.

If inhaled, the chemical called diacetyl causes bronchiolitis, which is characterized by the small airways of the lungs becoming inflamed and obstructed.

The 17-year-old patient who narrowly avoided the need for a double lung transplant suffered with this new type of vaping-related injury.

A team from Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, and University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto described the life-threatening bronchiolitis in a previously healthy 17-year-old male who initially presented for care after a week of persistent and intractable cough and was eventually hospitalized and put on life support.

After ruling out other causes, the team suspected flavoured e-liquids as the cause. The youth’s family reported that he vaped daily using a variety of flavoured cartridges and used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) regularly. THC is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.

“This novel disease pattern of airway injury associated with vaping leading to chronic obstruction appears to be distinct from the alveolar injury characterizing the EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) have been described cases recently reported in the US, and the seven confirmed or probable cases in Canada, highlighting the need for further research and regulation of e-cigarettes,” elaborated lead author Dr Karen Bosma, Associate Scientist at Lawson.

The case study, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), provides detailed medical information on the extent and type of injury as well as treatment.

“This case of life-threatening acute bronchiolitis posed a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge,” the authors wrote.

Vaping
In yet another serious health alert on e-cigarette use, researchers have documented first-ever case of a new form of damage from Vaping products in a youth which is similar to “popcorn lung,” a condition seen in workers exposed to food flavouring fumes in microwave popcorn factories. Pixabay

“Given the patient’s intense vaping exposure to flavoured e-liquid and negative workup for other causes of bronchiolitis, we suspected that bronchiolitis obliterans might have been developing in this patient as in microwave popcorn factory workers exposed to occupational inhalation of diacetyl.”

The youth narrowly avoided the need for a double lung transplant, but now has evidence of chronic damage to his airways.

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He is still recovering from his lengthy stay in the intensive care unit, and is abstaining from e-cigarettes, marijuana and tobacco.

“This case may represent the first direct evidence of the lung disease most expected to result from e-cigarette use,” said Dr Matthew Stanbrook, Deputy Editor, CMAJ. (IANS)