Speed Reads

health alert

Why American life expectancy is declining

For the third year running, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined, per new data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Children born in 2017 are expected to live an average of 78.6 years, down from 78.7 the year prior. This most recent decline makes the last three years the longest period of decreasing life expectancy since the years of 1915 to 1918, USA Today reports. Considering that time period included World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic, those factors might at least partially explain the reduced life expectancy.

But what's behind the decrease this time? The CDC has some theories, as it outlined in its report. Among the possible causes are increased deaths by drug overdose, liver disease, and suicide — all problems that have been exacerbated in the past few years across the country. In particular, the opioid epidemic may be affecting Americans' projected lifespans; in 2017, 70,000 people died of drug overdoses, and about two-thirds of those deaths were tied to opioids in some way.

The U.S. isn't the only nation dealing with a decrease in life expectancy: The U.K.'s average life expectancy is projected to decline by about five months. And while life expectancy is still increasing in France, Germany, and other European countries, the rates of those increases have gone down in recent years as well.

Whatever the underlying causes are for the life expectancy numbers, we can all hope they turn around soon. Read more at USA Today.