In 2021, the life expectancy for adults born in the United States decreased by seven months, NPR reported. That drop comes after another steep decline between 2020 and 2021. The CDC cited COVID-19 and drug overdoses — especially from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl — as the two main factors driving last year’s decrease.
Since it hit the U.S. in early 2020, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 1 million Americans. Last year alone, it caused nearly 417,000 deaths — and accounted for about 60 percent of the nation’s plummeting life expectancy, even after the COVID-19 vaccine was introduced.
The CDC recorded more than 106,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2021, a devastating testament to America’s ongoing mental health crisis. Deaths by suicide and liver disease caused by alcohol abuse also increased.
“It’s not a good year for the data, let’s put it that way,” Kenneth Kochanek, a CDC statistician, told NPR.
The data did offer a few bright spots: Death rates among Hispanic and Black men actually decreased in 2021. Diseases like the Alzheimer’s, the flu, and pneumonia were also responsible for fewer deaths last year, although that could be a byproduct of COVID-19 hitting America’s elderly population very hard.
To date, there have been more than 100 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide, with many patients experiencing less severe symptoms after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Still, the virus poses a serious threat to patients from certain high-risk groups, including people who are immunocompromised, have underlying health issues, or are older than 65.
If you’ve been sleeping on your bivalent COVID-19 booster, consider this a reminder to get vaxxed. The new booster was approved earlier this month for all Americans 6 months and older.
Drug overdoses from synthetic opioids also continue to wreak havoc in communities across the country. According to the CDC, most fentanyl-related deaths are associated with illegally made versions of the potent drug, which is 50 time stronger than heroin. It is sometimes added to party drugs like cocaine to increase its euphoric effects, often without the user’s knowledge.
When it comes to overdose prevention, the safest route is to avoid illegal drugs altogether. Alternatively, fentanyl testing strips can be employed as a harm reduction measure. The CDC also suggests carrying the life-saving medication Naloxone, which can be used to reverse an opioid overdose when delivered in time. It is available in all 50 states.
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