Increase in Drugs, Alcohol and Suicides Contribute to Large Drop in U.S. Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for the second year in a row, thanks to a combination of drug and alcohol use and suicides, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The drop was particularly large among middle-age white Americans and those living in rural communities, experts said in a report in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

The report complements one released in December from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that also found U.S. life expectancy was down for the second straight year.

“We are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair,” said Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth University, a co-author of the latest report. The idea of the “American Dream” is increasingly out of reach as social mobility declines and fewer children face a better future than their parents, he said.

In 2016, life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 years from 2015, according to the report, which cites data from the World Bank. Data from 2017 has yet to be calculated.

“It may not sound like much, but the alarming story is not the amount of the decrease but that the increase has ended,” he said.

In 1960, the U.S. had the highest life expectancy in the world. It’s lost ground to other industrialized nations ever since.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Doyle Rice