Americans’ Life Expectancy Dropped for a Second Year in a Row

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Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped slightly for the second year in a row, likely fueled in part by an uptick in drug overdoses.

The CDC on Thursday released updated data on death rates and life expectancy in the U.S., and reported that, as of 2016, Americans are expected to live until 78.6 years of age, down from 78.7 years in 2015. While that drop may not seem like much, it’s the second time in as many years life expectancy has gone down: In 2014, the figure was projected at 78.9 years.

A slight reshuffling in the top 10 causes of death may explain the downward trend. Unintentional injuries — a category that includes drug overdoses — overtook chronic lower respiratory diseases as the country’s third largest cause of death, according to the report, pointing to the continued severity of the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. (Heart disease and cancer held steady at numbers one and two, respectively.) Between 2015 and 2016, drug overdose deaths climbed from roughly 47,000 to an estimated 64,000 — a number that will likely be superseded again in 2017.

The CDC’s latest report also revealed that the death rate in the U.S. — that is, the number of people per 100,000 who died in 2016 — actually fell by 0.6% compared to 2015, despite the drop in life expectancy. Death rates among younger demographics, however, increased slightly.

Women are also still projected to live longer than men, the report says, aging to 81.1 years versus 76.1 years, respectively.

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