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Drug abuse lowering life-expectancy in 19 US states

Drug abuse, alcohol abuse and other “diseases of despair” are a major factor in reducing life-expectancy rates in 19 US states, resulting in a slight decrease the average life expectancy for the country as a whole.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that previously declining mortality rates in 19 states actually increased from 1990 to 2016. Dr Christopher Murray, of the University of Washington in Seattle, led the team of researchers conducting the study.

In that group of 19 states, the probability of premature death increased by 10% during the study period in Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kentucky.

The study evaluated published data for 84 risk factors and 333 causes correlated with mortality. Drug overdoses, alcohol abuse and suicide were the three main factors contributing to decreased life expectancy, especially among white, middle-aged Americans and residents of rural communities.

Heart disease and lung cancer were the two leading causes of death in the US in 2016, just as they were in 1990. This result was in spite of the fact that reduced smoking and more common use of treatments to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels have led to a 33% decrease in deaths from cardiovascular disease for all age levels.

Increase opioid use is a major contributing factor in some of the negative health outcomes. Opioid use ranked 52nd in factors that reduced life expectancy in 1990, but it rose to 15th in 2016.

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