For decades, along with modern technological progress and improvements in healthcare, the life expectancy of Americans has steadily increased. Surprisingly, however, in 2015 this trend halted and began to reverse. Life expectancy actually declined in America – for 3 years in a row. The year 2015 marked the first recorded drop in U.S. life expectancy in over 20 years, with Americans shaving an average of 0.1 years off of their lifespans. The same proved true in 2016 and 2017. How could this happen in modern day America? Some of the factors that make this even more shocking:
- We are currently not plagued by a national recession
- No active military conflicts or wars
- Cigarette smoking is declining
- Deaths from heart disease have leveled off
- Deaths from cancer continue to decline
Could it have something to do with the aging baby boomer population? According to Harvard’s Kathryn McHugh: “We’re seeing the drop in life expectancy not because we’re hitting a cap [for lifespans of] people in their 80s, [but] because people are dying in their 20s [and] 30s.”
Is it some kind of global phenomenon? It is hard to believe that America is not even forecasted to be in the Top 10 countries with the highest life expectancy by 2040!
Stepping back, to understand what is causing this disturbing trend we need to look beyond just physical health, to our country’s mental and emotional health.
According to the CDC, During 1999–2016, suicide rates increased in nearly every state, including greater than 30% increases in 25 states. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.
And in 2017 there were more than twice as many suicides (47,173) in the United States as there were homicides (19,510). These very sad and humbling statistics that tell us that we, as a society, have a lot more work to do.
Trying to understand the causes of suicide is extremely difficult, however we know for certain more and more people need mental and emotional help. There is more we can all do to take care of each other. In addition to what we can do on an individual level, we also need all of our major companies and institutions to step up and help promote ending the stigma around caring for mental and emotional health. We would love to see all Fortune 500 companies in the USA take a page from Bell Canada and our friendly neighbor to the North.
Opioids & Drug Overdoses
The crisis related to drugs and in particular opioids and synthetic opioids is real.
Directly from the CDC:
There has been a sharp increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol, from 2016 to 2017. The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone increased by 45%. The report highlighted how steep the increase was over the years. While the average rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids increased by 8% per year from 1999 to 2013, the average rate increased by 71% per year from 2013 to 2017.
In addition, deaths from drug overdoses have been steadily rising since 1999, and in 2014 they began to increase sharply by nearly 16% per year from 2014 through 2017! While the causes are complicated, greater access to mental and emotional health resources is badly needed.
Physical & Emotional Health
When we think about our overall physical health – as individuals and as a country – the linkage with mental and emotional health must not be forgotten. When we are emotionally healthy, we are more likely to eat healthier, exercise more, control our addictive behaviors, and live with overall greater well being and peace of mind. We can each do our part by putting ourselves out there openly and talking about mental and emotional health. The more we increase access to therapy and other mental health services, and make it completely normal to seek these resources, the greater the likelihood we can begin to reduce these unsettling statistics.