Declines in life expectancy across high income countries

Declines in life expectancy across high income countries

This is the first time in recent decades that these many high income countries simultaneously experienced declines in life expectancy for both men and women, and the size of these declines were larger than in the past.

In the non-US countries, these declines were largely concentrated at ages 65 and older and likely related to a particularly severe influenza season. The main causes of death driving these declines included influenza and pneumonia, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease and other mental and nervous system disorders.

But in the US, the decline was concentrated at younger ages, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, and largely driven by increases in drug overdose deaths related to its ongoing opioid epidemic. The authors point out that the US decline is particularly troubling in light of its already low life expectancy ranking relative to its peer countries.

And unlike other countries in the study, life expectancy in both the US and the UK continued to decline in 2016, which the researchers say raises questions about future trends in these countries.

A second study, also published today, suggests that the problem is larger than the opioid epidemic. It shows increased death rates from dozens of causes among people in all racial and ethnic groups.

Using national data to compare midlife death patterns from 1999 to 2016, Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth University and colleagues found that although drug overdoses, suicides, and alcoholism were the leading cause of excess deaths, mortality rates also increased dramatically for organ diseases involving the heart, lung, and other body systems. “The opioid epidemic is the tip of an iceberg,” said Woolf.

Source: Widespread declines in life expectancy across high income countries coincide with rising young adult and midlife mortality in the United States

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