According to two new studies published in The BMJ, a new worrying trend is affecting the US, Canada, as well as other high-income countries. As reported, life expectancy declines, primarily because of the opioid crisis and severe flu seasons, among other factors.
The first study reviewed the health and wellbeing trends of 18 high-income countries
The results revealed that the majority of the analyzed nations showed significant declines in life expectancy in 2015. That is, in fact, the first time in decades when most of the high-income countries experience such drops in life expectancy. “This hasn’t occurred in decades, and the size of these most recent declines were larger than prior declines,” said the study’s co-author, Jessica Ho, a researcher at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.
In most of the countries reviewed in the study, life expectancy declined due to the aging of the population, Alzheimer’s disease higher incidence, and cardiovascular diseases, among others. As for the US, the 2014-2015 flu season was one of the most severe ones in decades and also negatively impacted the life expectancy.
According to this study, while 16 out of the 18 reviewed countries only experienced such declines just in the 2015-2016 period, the US and the UK still experience life expectancy declines.
Alcoholism and suicides are the culprits for life expectancy declines across the US, the second study concluded
According to the second study published in The BMJ, while the drug abuse, driven by the recent opioid crisis, the life expectancy declines across the United States are also caused by increased alcoholism and suicides rates.
“A leading cause is fatal drug overdoses – fueled by the opioid epidemic – but we make a mistake if we focus only on the drug problem, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Deaths from alcoholism and suicides have also increased, what some call deaths of despair,” explained Dr. Steven H. Woolf, the study’s leading author, and a researcher at the Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond.
Additionally, the study revealed that illnesses of the heart, lungs, and digestive system, including cancers, are the primary culprits for the life expectancy declines across the US.