As Gun Violence Grows, US Life Expectancy Drops

Participants pass bags decorated with messages for the deceased during an Out of the Darkness Walk event organized by the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Sawyer Point park Sunday Oct. 15 2017 in Cincinnati. (Joh

Participants pass bags decorated with messages for the deceased during an Out of the Darkness Walk event organized by the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Sawyer Point park Sunday Oct. 15 2017 in Cincinnati. (Joh

As Kathryn McHugh of Harvard Medical School tells NPR's Richard Harris, "We're seeing the drop in life expectancy not because we're hitting a cap [for lifespans of] people in their 80s, [but] because people are dying in their 20s [and] 30s".

The decline is not the cause of some new widespread disease, rather the cause of something preventable.

To try and quantify how much lives in the United States might have been shortened by firearms assault and suicide since the turn of the century, and whether certain age groups and black Americans are disproportionately affected, the researchers used data for firearms deaths from 2000 to 2016. Broken down by gender, men could expect to live an average of 76.1 years, down from 76.2 in 2016, while women could anticipate living until 81.1, the same age projected in 2016. "By comparison, only about 17,000 people died of overdoses in 1999, the earliest year for which the CDC offered data Thursday".

On top of this increase, there has been a consistent decline in the average life expectancy in the US for the past three years. It was the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago.

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Robert stated that the increase in deaths can be partially attributed to an aging population. However, many deaths are occurring in young and middle-aged people.

According to a CDC report released Thursday, the USA life expectancy dropped in 2017 due to an increase in deaths caused by drug overdoses and suicides.

The study stated, "The overall life expectancy loss is twice as high among Blacks compared with whites and is driven by substantially higher homicide rates among Blacks up to age 20". The life expectancy dropped to 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 since 2016. Similarly in 2017, the drug overdose death rate was 21.7 per 100,000 deaths, while in 1999 that number was only 6.1. 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. Flu is unfortunately making a comeback, accounting for nearly 6 percent of US deaths in 2017. Of the top 10 leading causes of death-heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (drug overdoses constituted slightly less than half of this category in 2017), chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide-only cancer witnessed a decrease in mortality rates. 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.

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