CDC: Overall U.S. Mortality Rate Increase Driven By Drug Overdose, Gun Violence

Data released Friday by the Center for Disease Control reveal an increase in drug and gun related deaths, causing an overall increase in mortality rate, despite progress made in other areas. (Image credit: ollie harridge/Flickr)

Data released Friday by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reveal an increase in drug and gun related deaths, causing an overall increase in mortality rate, even though numbers continue to fall for America's biggest killers - heart disease, cancer, and HIV.

"Heart disease and cancer are traditionally the major causes of death," CDC mortality surveillance researcher Farida Ahmad told CNN. "What we're seeing here is even though heart disease is going down, even though cancer is going down, the overall death rate is going up."

One factor is the ongoing opioid epidemic, driving up overdose numbers and becoming the number one cause of death of Americans under the age of 50.

"We have roughly two groups of Americans that are getting addicted," opioid policy researcher Andrew Kolodny from Brandeis University told The New York Times. "We have an older group that is overdosing on pain medicine, and we have a younger group that is overdosing on black market opioids."

A second factor is gun violence, which saw a much smaller but appreciable increase in the last year.

For the second straight year, the rate for gun-related fatalities has increased, from 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people in Q1 2016 to 12 deaths per 100,000 people for the same period this year.

The surge represents homicide and suicide, with the latter comprising about two thirds of gun-related deaths.

"The fact that we are seeing increases in the firearm-related deaths after a long period where it has been stable is concerning," CDC mortality statistician Robert Anderson told The New York Times. "It is a pretty sharp increase for one year."