For the second year in a row, the U.S. life expectancy has dropped. The cause? A drastic increase in the number of deaths as a result of drugs, alcohol, and suicide, according to a report in the journal BMJ. The real cause for concern isn’t necessarily that the life expectancy has dropped .1 to 78.6 from 2015 to 2016, but that U.S. life expectancy has stopped increasing.
Nearly 60 years ago, the United States had the highest life expectancy in the world, according to USA Today. We have now been surpassed by 35 nations, with an expectancy at 1.5 years lower than the group, commonly referred to as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Countries in this group include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, among others. Many of the premature deaths that have contributed to this decrease have occurred in mostly white, rural American communities that are struggling with unemployment and poverty.
To further complicate the country’s increase in deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide, the report found that Americans have poorer health than other nations. Such problems include “birth outcomes, injuries, homicides, adolescent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.” Further, Americans generally engage in riskier behavior, including a high calorie intake and firearm ownership, according to the report.
Steven Woolf, the co-author of the report, suggested that the only way to tackle the problem is at the root level, by making policy changes and electing officials who take into consideration the grave circumstances facing our nation.