President Donald Trump’s core demographic — white males in rural America — saw a drop in life expectancy again last year, according to data recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, life expectancy in the U.S. fell from 78.7 years in 2016 to 78.6 years in 2017, marking the third consecutive year that life expectancy dropped.
Though small, the trend is unusual for a developed nation where advances in public health and medicine otherwise lead to longer lifespans. The data also drew attention because the cause of the drop in life expectancy: Drug overdoses and suicides, primarily.
A study conducted by Princeton economists and spouses Anne Case and Angus Deaton made headlines in 2015 when it showed mortality for whites was rising, driven by drug and alcohol overdoses, suicide, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis. Unlike the data released by the CDC, that research included information about educational attainment, finding that deaths were highest among people with a high school diploma or less.
Another analysis, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in September, suggests that counties that voted Republican in 2016 had a 15 percent higher age-adjusted death rate than counties that voted heavily Democratic. Dr. Lee Goldman, dean of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University in New York City, found in the study that people in counties with Republican gains were 2.5 times more likely to die from alcohol, drugs, and suicide than counties with Democratic gains.
The CDC report highlights the following overall trends:
For instance, the studies reveal that suicides are twice as high in rural areas as in urban ones, continuing an upward trend that began in 1999. It also shows that rates of drug overdoses were highest in states such as West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all states Trump won.
Drug overdoses were tied to 70,237 deaths in 2017, an increase of nearly 10 percent from the year before, and opioids such as heroin and fentanyl were responsible for 47,600 of these deaths.
The life expectancy for women was unchanged, at 81.1 years, but for men it decreased from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years. Rates of death increased most among white men and women, and among adults between the ages of 25 to 34.
Robert Anderson, a chief CDC statistician, said that white males "are the ones that seem the most affected," but he noted that life expectancy continues to be lower among other demographics and black men continue to have the highest death rates.