Science and Health

Life Expectancy Is Decreasing In The U.S. Due To Multiple Factors

A new report from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health details steps to reverse the decline in life expectancy in the U.S.

Life Expectancy Is Decreasing In The U.S. Due To Multiple Factors
Charlie Riedel / AP
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A new report says life expectancy was down in 2020 and 2021 — cut short by COVID, drug overdose, gun violence, teen suicide, motor vehicle deaths, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. 

It’s the biggest two-year decline in the average time a person may expect to live since the 1920s. Public health experts are meeting in Philadelphia with government health officials during a summit this week. Their main message — those problems can be solved. 

"The magnitude of these issues are extensive and the opportunities are likewise extensive in terms of what we can do across communities to really impact health," said Michelle Spencer, associate director for the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Spencer says adolescents especially need attention. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for 15-19 year olds.  

One suggestion from the report — confidential and comprehensive health care in schools. 

"To ensure that our adolescents feel that they're seen and that they're heard, and that their health and social needs are being met as well," said Spencer.

Another focus — drug overdose. It’s accounted for half of accidental deaths the past year, according to the CDC. Experts say solutions like expanded access to opioid use disorder medications in clinics and jails. Plus widespread vending machines with naloxone, sterile needles, or fentanyl test strips could go a long way.  

"We know that there are our treatment opportunities. We know that there's programs, we know that there's services available," said Spencer.

Why Do Some People Live So Long?

Why Do Some People Live So Long?

The CDC predicts life expectancy to grow for Americans in the next few years from 76 years old to about 85 years old.

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