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Deaths from drugs and suicide increase as US life expectancy declines

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On average, the US population can expect to live for about 78 years, nearly a decade less than the world's highest life expectancy rate.

Life expectancy in the United States has once again declined, in part because of rising rates of suicide and drug overdose, according to new government reports.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that nearly 70,000 more Americans died in 2017 compared to 2016, with an increase in death rates among 25- to 44-year-olds.

Thursday's reports revealed that overdose rates for synthetic opioids have increased by an average of 45% nationally.

The suicide rate is also the highest in decades.

Americans can expect to live a little over 78 years and six months on average, down 0.1 from 2016, according to the report released Thursday.

"Tragically, this disturbing trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide," said CDC director Robert Redfield in a statement.

"Life expectancy gives us insight into the general health of the country and these disturbing statistics remind us that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, in preventable conditions."

The top 10 causes of death – including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and suicide – were the same as in 2016, accounting for the majority of deaths.

Only cancer mortality rates decreased by 2.1%, while those of most other causes increased.

American women continue to live longer than men, and the death rate has declined among 45 to 54 year olds.

Between 2016 and 2017, death rates also declined among black women and no significant changes were observed in black men and Hispanic Americans.

Life expectancy in the United States began to fall in 2015.

Monaco and Japan currently have the longest life expectancies in the world, with 89 and 85 years. The life expectancy of the UK is around 80 years old.

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Drug-related death rate up 16% annually

While the US is struggling with an opioid crisis, overdoses are claiming more and more lives, according to the CDC report. The age-adjusted death rate has increased by 16% per year since 2014.

Drug overdose deaths accounted for 70,237 deaths last year – nearly 10% more than in 2016 – with a significantly higher death rate for men than for women.

The overdose mortality rate of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased by 45% in one year.

West Virginia had the highest overdose mortality rate in 2017, with 58 deaths per 100,000 population; Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the US capital were also top of the list.

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Regular increase in the number of suicides

The CDC found that suicide was the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34 in 2016, with a 33% increase between 1999 and 2017, according to the report.

Suicide rates in urban areas were 16% higher in 2017 than in 1999 and suicides in rural areas increased by 53% over the same period.

  • Mental illness "does not discriminate"

Dr. Jerry Reed, of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, told the BBC that suicide was not always a simple mental health problem.

"Declining economic conditions or livelihood opportunities could lead people to positions where they are at risk, and we need to be involved in mental health and public health," says Dr. Reed.

Where to find help

From Canada or the United States: If you are in an emergency, call 911

You can contact the US National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by sending a message to HOME at 741741.

Young people who need help can phone Youth, I'm listening at 1-800-668-6868.

If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans at 116123

For help and more information on emotional distress, click here.

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