CDC: U.S. Life Expectancy Drops to 25-Year Low as Drug Overdose Deaths Surge from Last Year

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

U.S. life expectancy declined to a 25-year low in 2021 as nearly 107,000 Americans died from drug overdose deaths last year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data published Thursday.

It is the second year in a row life expectancy has decreased, and a person born in 2021 is now expected to live 76.4 years compared to 77 years in 2020 and 78.8 years in 2019, the CDC report stated.

The last time the life expectancy rate was this low was in 1996 when the figure was documented at 76.1 years.

The federal public health agency attributed COVID-19 as the primary driver for the surge of deaths last year but noted that drug overdose deaths also fueled the mortality rate. As Breitbart News has documented, drug overdose deaths skyrocketed amid the height of the pandemic-related lockdowns from 2020 to 2021.

The Associated Press

This May 13, 2020, photo — made with a fisheye lens — shows a list of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County early in the coronavirus pandemic at the Salt Lake County Health Department, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The leading cause of death for Americans last year was heart disease, followed by cancer, the CDC noted. COVID-19 was the third leading cause, increasing from 85.0 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020 to 104.1 in 2021.

While COVID-19 deaths rose, influenza and pneumonia-related deaths decreased due to a mild flu season last year, and they were knocked off the top ten leading causes of death in 2021 after being included the year prior.

Unintentional deaths were the fourth leading cause in the mortality rate, as drug overdoses contributed to more than a third of those fatalities.

In a separate report also released Thursday, the CDC stated the number of drug overdose deaths among U.S. residents increased by nearly 16 percent, from 91,799 deaths in 2020 to 106,699 in 2021.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told CNN that she agreed with the CDC analysis that COVID-19 and drug overdoses were the primary factors that fueled the spike in deaths in the U.S. last year.

“The pandemic had a magnifying effect on an already-devastating overdose crisis, and exacerbated many of the stressors in society that make people more vulnerable to taking drugs,” said Volkow.

“The Faces of Fentanyl” wall, which displays photos of Americans who died from a fentanyl overdose, at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on July 13, 2022. (AGNES BUN/AFP via Getty Images)

Data from the CDC report shows that deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increased dramatically by 22 percent from 2020 to 2021, while deaths from heroin declined by 32 percent. Overdose deaths from cocaine and psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, have also increased since last year.

“We also know that substance use is more dangerous than it has ever been, as fentanyl has continued to permeate the illicit drug supply, increasing the risk for overdoses among both people with substance use disorders as well as those who use drugs occasionally,” Volkow added.

Drug overdose deaths were highest among American Indian or Alaska Native people, increasing from a rate of 42.5 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2020 to 56.6 in 2021. Overdose deaths among black people also increased significantly from 35.8 to 44.2, while white people increased from 33.1 to 36.8.

Hispanic people saw a rise in overdose deaths from 17.6 to 21.1, while Asian people had the lowest increase, from 4.6 to 4.7.

Those aged 33-44 years had the highest number of overdose fatalities in 2021 at a rate of 62.0, followed by the 45-54 year cohort at 53.8, the 25-34 year cohort at 52.9, and the 55-64 year cohort at 45.3.

Overall, the nation’s final mortality rate in 2021 was documented at 3,464,231 total deaths, more than the 80,502 deaths reported in 2020. Moreover, last year’s total death rate was 835.4 deaths per 100,000 people, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2020.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.


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