Drug Overdoses Cited as Top Reason for Decline in White Americans’ Life Expectancy

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times


WASHINGTON — Life expectancy declined slightly for white Americans in 2014, according to new federal data, a troubling sign that distress among younger and middle-age whites who are dying at ever-higher rates from drug overdoses is lowering average life spans for the white population as a whole.


The new federal data, drawn from all deaths recorded in the country in 2014, showed that life expectancy for whites dropped to 78.8 years in 2014 from 78.9 in 2013.


Men and women had declines, but because of statistical rounding, the decline did not appear as sharp among men. Life expectancy for women fell to 81.1 in 2014 from 81.2 in 2013. The average life span for men also fell but not enough to sink below 76.5 years, their life expectancy in 2013.


“The increase in death in this segment of the population was great enough to affect life expectancy at birth for the whole group,” said Elizabeth Arias, the statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics who analyzed the data, referring to whites from their mid-20s to their mid-50s. “That is very unusual."


Arias said drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide were the main drivers of the trends among whites in recent years, a pattern also found by other researchers.


Life expectancy for whites had been rising for decades, but it has stagnated in recent years. It inched up in 2010 and 2011 and was flat in 2012 and 2013.


In contrast, life expectancy for blacks rose to 75.6 in 2014 from 75.5 in the previous year. Blacks have gained more than a year of life expectancy since 2008. Black men had the biggest increase of all the groups in 2014, rising to 72.2 from 71.8.


For Hispanics overall, life expectancy jumped to 81.8 in 2014 from 81.6 in 2013. For Hispanic women, life expectancy rose to 84 years from 83.8. Hispanics, like blacks, have gained one year of life expectancy since 2008.


The overall life expectancy for Americans, 78.8, remained unchanged.


To Learn More:

Sharp Increase in Deaths from Heroin and Prescription Painkiller Overdoses (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Why are Middle-Aged White Americans Dying at a Higher Rate? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

White Deaths Top Births for First Time Ever (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Life Expectancy Declines for White High School Dropouts (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

White Women in U.S. Live 10 Years Longer than Black Men (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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