U.S. Life Expectancy Is Declining

The life expectancy of the average citizen of the United States has declined for a second straight year, dropping to 78.7 years.

According to Fortune, while the United States led the world in life expectancy a half a century ago, Americans are now a year and a half below the average of other developed countries and currently find themselves ranked just outside the top 30 worldwide. Citing a study from The BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal), officials believe that the leading causes of the lower life expectancy are addictions and a decline in the emotional well-being of Americans.

“We are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair,” said Steven Woolf, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a co-author of The BMJ study.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to a 21% increase in opioid-related deaths in the past year, as well as a staggering 137% increase over the past 15 years. In addition, alcohol abuse is the highest it has been in 35 years, and the suicide rate has increased 24% in the past two decades.

In 2015, the World Health Organization ranked Japan as the #1 country in life expectancy, followed by Switzerland and Singapore. Australia and Spain rounded out the top five. While the United States is ranked #31, its life expectancy is still over 25 years longer than the African countries at the bottom of WHO’s listing, including Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Angola, and Sierra Leone at just 50.1 years.

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