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Life Expectancy Is at a Standstill

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

From From Cheryl Russell, Demo Memo

Life expectancy in the United States was no higher in 2018 than it was in 2010, which makes the 2010s (so far) the first decade in modern history in which the lives of Americans have not increased. During those eight years, life expectancy at birth succeeded in climbing 0.2 years, reaching a high of 78.9 in 2014. Then, to the consternation of many, it fell by 0.2 years between 2014 and 2015 – the first decline since 1993. It fell another 0.1 year between 2016 and 2017, but gained 0.1 year between 2017 and 2018. In 2018, as in 2010, life expectancy at birth in the United States was 78.7 years.

Life expectancy at birth in the United States, 2010 to 2018

2018: 78.7 years
2017: 78.6
2016: 78.7
2015: 78.7
2014: 78.9
2013: 78.8
2012: 78.8
2011: 78.7
2010: 78.7

A study by the National Center for Health Statistics takes a look at the reasons for the 0.3 year decline in life expectancy between 2014 and 2017. Most of the decline was caused by the increase in drug overdose deaths. In 2010, there were 38,329 deaths from drug overdoses. The number grew to 47,055 by 2014. Then things really got bad, with deaths surging to 70,237 by 2017 – a 49% increase between 2014 and 2017. This surge explains the 51% majority of the decline in life expectancy during those years, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. Other causes of death contributing to the decline in life expectancy were Alzheimer's disease, suicide, homicide, and diabetes.

Drug deaths fell slightly in 2018, and life expectancy recovered a bit – but it's only back to where it was nearly a decade ago.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality Data, Changes in Life Expectancy at Birth, 2010–2018; and Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2018

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