The average life span in the United States in 2017 dropped to "78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 year from 2016", according to the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.
On the health care side of the equation, between 2010 and 2015, the rate of opioid-related hospitalizations among older adults increased by 34.3% from 199.3 to 267.6 per 100,000, and the rate of opioid-related emergency department visits increased by 74.2%, from 44.7 to 77.9 per 100,000 (see Opioid-Related Hospitalizations Among 65+ Population Increased 34% Over Five Years). Even though the life expectancy is decreasing, cancer and heart disease deaths in this country are declining. Gun-related assaults and homicides disproportionately affect young black Americans, so the cumulative effect of these very early deaths adds up to a sizable loss of total life expectancy.
Drug overdose deaths in this country are at an all-time high. Deaths from suicide increased by 3.7 percent in 2017. "Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide", said CDC director Robert Redfield.
Blame a lot of that death on fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
It found that gun deaths are driving down life expectancy rates for black Americans by about four years - that's about double the rate for white Americans.
Suicide is the other killer driving up US death statistics.
The authors acknowledge that the data didn't enable them to look at deaths by ethnicity-Hispanics, for example-and that many ethnic groups may be included in what is understood by black American nationality. That's an increase of 9.6 percent over 2016's numbers. That's 47,173 people who took their lives in one year. The suicide rate amongst urban residents is 11.1 per 100,000 people, as opposed to rural residents' 20 per 100,000. Men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women.
People today are "less connected to each other in communities", George Washington University's William Dietz told NPR.
There is much speculation that the two causes of death are related because mental illnesses can lead to both addictive behaviors and suicides.
Death by drug overdose or suicide is tragic and entirely preventable.
"The fact is we still need the access to services", said Snyder.
If you or someone you know are considering suicide, reach out to the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889).