U.S. life expectancy rose slightly as declines in cancer, overdose deaths offset an uptick in suicide

Children born in the U.S. in 2018 can expect to live about a month longer than those born a year earlier, to age 78.7 from 78.6, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. The slight increase in U.S. life expectancy, back...

U.S. life expectancy rose slightly as declines in cancer, overdose deaths offset an uptick in suicide

Children born in the U.S. in 2018 can expect to live about a month longer than those born a year earlier, to age 78.7 from 78.6, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. The slight increase in U.S. life expectancy, back to 2010 numbers, at least temporarily halts a slow decline from the peak of 78.9 years in 2014. Males born in 2018 can expect to live to an average age of 76 years and 2 months, while females have a life expectancy of 81 years and 1 month. The total number of U.S. deaths rose by about 26,000, to 2.8 million, but the death rate went down.

 

The main contributor to the decline was a 2 percent drop in cancer deaths, and especially lung cancer deaths as people stop smoking and treatments improve. Cancer is the No. 2 killer in the U.S., after heart disease. The raw number of deaths from drug overdoses dropped for the first time in 28 years, the CDC said, and the rate of fatal overdose deaths dropped, too. Specifically, deaths of prescription opioids and other pills dropped in 2018, offsetting rising overdose deaths from street drugs like fentanyl, cocaine, and meth.

 

The other driver of the recent decline in life expectancy was suicide, and the number of fatal suicides continued to rise in 2018, to the highest rate since 1941, about 14 per 100,000 people. The U.S. has the highest suicide rate among 11 wealthy nations, double the rate in Britain, the Commonwealth Fund said in a separate report Thursday, and America's life expectancy is the lowest among its peers. "We live sicker and die younger than our counterparts around the world — despite spending around twice as much as other nations on health care," said the report's lead author, Roosa Tikkanen. "We can do better."