Life expectancy is a powerful method of determining the health of a country. A steady increase in life expectancy, considered the norm for decades, may no longer be the case. The last time it fell for several consecutive years was directly after World War I which was followed by the occurrence of the deadly Spanish flu. Despite improvements in the cancer survival rate, life expectancy continues to fall in high-income countries. The United States ranks close to the bottom among these nations. The possibility of a trend is a cause for concern.
The numbers and reasons vary depending on ethnicity, gender, and location. By far, the greatest loss is among American Indians and Alaskan Natives, perhaps the most disenfranchised group of all. There are numerous reasons for the drop in life expectancy. An increase in cardiovascular disease is the main medical reason. This is followed by digestive illnesses. Obesity is another contributing cause.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, there are two contributing factors that stand out – the opioid epidemic and suicide – arguably the same thing. Another significant contributing factor is chronic liver disease which may be the result of alcohol abuse. Suicide, on the increase since 1999, has increased even more since 2006. Suicide is more common in rural areas which is thought to be the result of the fact guns are more readily available. The increase is most notable among children and military veterans. Anxiety and stress are increasing among young people which doesn’t bode well for the future and statistics with respect to life expectancy. This suggests a continued decline in the number. What is stunning is these deaths are preventable.
In a world that’s increasingly complex, events and circumstances appear to be conspiring to permit destructive forces to gain traction. Although certain groups, of various ages, can expect to live fewer years as circumstances change, Generations X and Y pay the largest generational price. Tragically, Fentanyl overdose is driving the increase in mortality among young Americans with devastating consequences.
It is clear that unless something is done to change the driving forces behind the decline in life expectancy, it can be expected to continue to fall. The causes must be identified before anything can be done.