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Crosstalk: November 30, 2018

Jim began this edition of Crosstalk with news from the Centers for Disease Control indicating that suicides and drug overdoses pushed up deaths in the U.S. last year, driving a continuing decline in the life expectancy of Americans.

Overall there were 2.8 million U.S. deaths in 2017, nearly 70,000 more than in 2016. It was the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago.

This reflects the growing aging population but it also reflects deaths in younger age groups, particularly middle-age individuals.
The suicide death rate was the highest it's been in at least 50 years according to U.S. government records. There were more than 47,000 suicides, up from a little under 45,000 the year before.

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was increasing, rising a few months almost every year. Now it's trending the other way. It fell in 2015, stayed level in 2016 and declined again in 2017.
We're in the longest period of generally declining life expectancy since the late 1910's when WWI and the flu combined to kill nearly one million Americans.

CDC officials are not speculating about what's behind this reduced life expectancy, but one disease prevention expert at George Washington University sees a sense of hopelessness.

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