Life expectancy in the United States in 2017 continued to decline and accumulated in recent years historical deterioration mainly due to the crisis due to drug overdose, according to health statistics released on Thursday.
"This is the first time we are seeing a downward trend after the big flu epidemic of 1918 ", said Robert Anderson, head of mortality statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, which discloses the data. Anderson noted, however, that in 1918 the decline was much worse.
In 2017, Life expectancy at birth was 76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women. The median for the population was 78.6 years, compared with 78.9 in 2014.
Besides, three and a half years less than in Canada, on the other side of the border, and it also depends on overdose.
"These statistics warn us and show that we will lose many Americans very soon in order to avoid possible causes.", said Robert Redfield, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2017, about 70,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, which is 10% more than in 2016.
As for deaths, Anderson compared this situation with the growing HIV epidemic, but with a difference: it quickly fell, The statistician expects overdoses to go the same way. "We are a developed country, life expectancy should increase, not decrease"he said.
Of the 35 OECD countries, only Iceland has recently observed a decrease in life expectancy, according to data until 2016. In other places, it has grown or stalled.
Suicide also increased in 2017 in the United States.
There are two categories of overdose. On the one hand, non-opioid drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as other psychostimulants: for the deceased approximately 27,000 people
But growth is largely due to the second category: opiates.
This includes heroin, morphine and the so-called semi-synthetic opiates, such as oxycodone, a prescription pain medication, but sold on the black market, with the help of complicit doctors and laboratories who claim to ignore the problem and which are usually the gateway to addiction.
Recently, most of the deaths occur in a new generation of drugs: synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl, are tens of times more effective than heroin, with which the smallest dose can be fatal.
He killed the Prince's singer. And it was used to execute a convict in Nebraska in August.
Mortality from synthetic opiates doubled from 2015 to 2016. Last year it increased by 45%.
But the numbers of 2017 showed a detail that gives relative hope: the number of overdoses continues to grow, but more slowly.
Preliminary data for 2018 even suggest that the crisis reached its peak at the beginning of this year. "But it's hard to say"because at the moment there is only data for several months, said cautious Robert Anderson.
In Staten Island, New York, Dr. Harshall Kirana, director of addiction services, avoids jumping to conclusions. “It is gratifying to see that the trajectory is curved, no doubt,” he told AFP. "But 70,000 dead, they are still difficult to digest."
This plague is not equally affected by the whole country. Center states, from Texas to South Dakota, are relatively safe.
The crisis is acute in New England, in the northeast corner, where over a quarter of organ donation deaths from overdose competing with traffic accidents.
He is also very strong in the two states of the old industrial belt (Ohio and Pennsylvania) and especially in the poorest of West Virginia, which is on the front with a sad figure of 58 deaths for each 100,000 people compared to the national average of 22.