In three reports issued Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out a series of statistics that revealed some troubling trend lines - including rapidly increasing rates of death from drug overdoses and suicide.
"Given that we are a developed country and we have a lot of resources, there's no no reason why we should have a declining life expectancy", said Bob Anderson, mortality statistics branch chief, National Center for Health Statistics. Drug overdose deaths spikes by over 6,500 in 2017, especially among men. That is up from 10.5 in 1999 and from 13.5 previous year.
Nevertheless, the federal report is "a stark reminder that we must continue to do everything we can to prevent people from starting down the destructive and often fatal road of drug use disorder, and to ensure that treatment options exist for everyone in Vermont who needs them, no matter who they are or where they are", state Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. By comparison, only about 17,000 people died of overdoses in 1999, the earliest year for which the CDC offered data Thursday.
The 2017 numbers come despite the government's Healthy People 2020 goal to reduce suicide rates to 10.2 per 100,000 by 2020.
The most striking trend in suicide deaths is their geographic distribution. Japan has the longest life expectancy in the world, at nearly 84.
Suicide rates also continued a worrying rise.
Data on drug overdoses shows a rapidly accelerating trend-a slower increase from 1999 until 2014, and then a skyrocketing 16 percent per year from 2014 until 2017.
Deaths by suicide have also spiked.
"The latest CDC data show that the United States life expectancy has declined over the past few years".
Most races and ethnic groups, including black males, Hispanic males and Hispanic females, saw no significant changes in their death rate year over year.
Babies now can expect to live 78.6 years on average, based on 2017 data, according to NCHS researchers. This follows a doubling of the death rate due to fentanyl and similar drugs from 2015 to 2016.
Redfield tied the drop in overall life expectancy, which averaged 78.6 years in 2017, a decrease of 0.1 from the year before, to the rise in deaths from overdose and suicide. From 2016 to 2017, the age-adjusted death rate for the entire population increased by 0.4 percent.
Life expectancy fell for the first time in decades in 2015. Unintentional injuries, including drug overdoses, are the third leading cause of death, followed by chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide.
A variety of factors determine suicide rates, but one that may help explain its greater prevalence in rural areas is access to guns, said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.
According to the Associated Press, the suicide rate in America has reached a 50-year peak.
"So the frustration that many of us feel is that there are things that could save many lives", he said, "and we are failing to make those services available".