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US life expectancy stalls due to cardiovascular disease, not drug deaths

OPEN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | 18 Mar 2020

NK Mehta, LR Abrams and M Myrskylä
Abstract
After decades of robust growth, the rise in US life expectancy stalled after 2010. Explanations for the stall have focused on rising drug-related deaths. Here we show that a stagnating decline in cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality was the main culprit, outpacing and overshadowing the effects of all other causes of death. The CVD stagnation held back the increase of US life expectancy at age 25 y by 1.14 y in women and men, between 2010 and 2017. Rising drug-related deaths had a much smaller effect: 0.1 y in women and 0.4 y in men. Comparisons with other high-income countries reveal that the US CVD stagnation is unusually strong, contributing to a stark mortality divergence between the US and peer nations. Without the aid of CVD mortality declines, future US life expectancy gains must come from other causes-a monumental task given the enormity of earlier declines in CVD death rates. Reversal of the drug overdose epidemic will be beneficial, but insufficient for achieving pre-2010 pace of life expectancy growth.
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