Drugs, alcohol and suicides contribute to alarming drop in U.S. life expectancy

Drugs, alcohol and suicides contribute to alarming drop in U.S. life expectancy, by Doyle Rice.

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. …

“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. … “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. …

By far, the report found it’s a rural issue more than an urban one. “The problem is concentrated in rural, largely white counties that have often struggled for many years with stagnant wages, unemployment, poverty and the loss of major industries that fueled local economies,” Woolf said.

As for what to do about it, he said that “the root causes argue for policy solutions, especially those directed at strengthening the middle class that are not getting sufficiently prioritized by elected officials.”