American drug overdose deaths surged above 70,000 in 2017, a 10% jump to a new record as life expectancy across the country plunged for the second time in three years, according to a government report out Thursday.
CDC Director Robert Redfield said the data was deeply "troubling."
"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation's overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable," Redfield said in a statement Thursday, adding that the decline in overall life expectancy is linked to the accelerated rise in deaths from drug overdose and suicide.
Suicide rates moved higher, by about 3.7%. Together, these two causes of death decreased US life expectancy for the second year in a row, the CDC reported. As shown in the graphic below, most of the drug overdoses are occurring in deindustrialized regions of the country, including Rust Belt states and parts of the Mid Atlantic and North East.
Age-adjusted drug overdose death rates, by state: US, 2017
Overall life expectancy for Americans was 78.6 years in 2017, a reduction of 0.1 years. While the drop might not seem like much, life expectancy tends to rise, not reverse, which suggests the continuation of decay within the middle class.
The death rates are driven by a 9.6% jump in drug overdose deaths, from 63,632 in 2016, to 70,237 in 2017. Most of the overdoses involved opioids and or opioid analogs.
Age-adjusted drug overdose rates: US, 1999-2007
“West Virginia (with 57.8 overdose deaths per 100,000 people), Ohio (46.3 overdose deaths per 100,000), Pennsylvania (44.3), and the District of Columbia (44 ) had the highest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2017,” the CDC report states.
NBC notes the increase was not as significant as the 21% jump in drug overdose death rate between 2015 and 2016. But warns since President Trump labeled the opioid crisis a "health emergency," with increased federal, state and local efforts, the epidemic continues to spiral out of control.
Suicide rates are another concern. “The suicide rate in the United States has increased from 10.4 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 (per 100,000) in 2017,” a second CDC report reads.
“Suicide rates have increased since 1999 for both males and females ages 10-74. Rates in the most rural U.S. counties are nearly two times higher than rates in the most urban counties.”
“This increase in the suicide rate is extremely discouraging," said Dr. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "Until we scale up intervention efforts at the community, state and national levels, we will likely continue to see an increase in suicides in the United States."
Age-adjusted death rates for the 10 leading cause of death: US, 2016 and 2017
The case can be made that, contrary to the administration's claims of "the greatest economy ever," the American economy is not quite that robust. The record levels of drug overdoses, elevated suicide rates, and life expectancy declines show that something is seriously wrong just below the surface of the otherwise strong economy.