ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Wednesday that life expectancy in the United States has stalled for the third year in a row, whilst experts believe that fatal drug overdoses might be significantly influencing the death rates.

A baby born in 2014 can expect to live until it is 78 years and 9½ months, just like a child born in 2012. The last time life expectancy was stuck for three years was in the decade of 1980. Compared to other developed countries, life expectancy in the U.S. is very low, as it ranks below 40 other nations. According to the World Bank, Japan and Iceland reach the top of the list, since a baby born in those countries can make it to more than 83 years if current rates don’t change too much.

Photo: IStockPhoto.
Photo: IStockPhoto.

In the U.S., health officials take into account how old people were by the time they died and what caused their death. After looking at those variables, they calculate how long people born today will live by using statistical modeling. The CDC reported that in 2014 an estimated of 2.6 million American passed away, 29,000 more than in 2013. The results include the country’s growing and aging population, which explains that, even when there were more deaths than the previous year, life expectancy remained the same.

Suicide and unintentional injuries raised about 3 percent. While these death rates include falls, traffic accidents and drug overdoses, the last are outweighing the rest, affirmed Ian Rockett, a researcher from West Virginia University. In fact, drug overdose deaths have been steadily increasing for more than two decades, mainly as a result from the abuse of strong prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin. Heroin-related deaths have increased over the past few years, but not as much as the previous mentioned.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set as top priority the battle against drug abuse, according to acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. The FDA has recently approved a nasal spray called Narcan that contains naloxone, a medication that can stop or reverse the effects of a drug overdose, including morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as heroin. The ease-to-use spray will help save many lives, as it acts against the overdose effects in two minutes.

Other findings reported by the CDC on Wednesday include the good news that infant mortality has scored a record low of 2.3 percent or 5.8 per 1,000 births. Researchers have not yet found the causes of the decline, but they reported an important decrease of 14 percent in respiratory distress, which happens when premature newborns find it difficult to breathe because their lungs are not completely developed.

As for the 10 top leading causes of death among Americans, they remain the same: heart disease (167.0 per 100,000 individuals), cancer (161.2), respiratory diseases (40.5), accidents and unintentional injuries (40.5), stroke (36.5), Alzheimer’s disease (25.4), diabetes (20.9), influenza and pneumonia (15.1), kidney disease (13.2), and suicide (13.0).

Source: The New York Times