Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the Center for Health Statistics, said the leveling off of prescription drug deaths may reflect a small impact from efforts in recent years to curb the diversion of legal painkillers to users and dealers on the streets.
Age was an influencing factor in these deaths, the researchers found. Adults between 25 and 54 experienced the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2017.
U.S. women continue to outlive men, and the death rate did decrease among 45- to 54-year-olds.
West Virginia saw the highest overdose death rate in 2017 at 58 per 100,000 people; Ohio, Pennsylvania and the USA capital also topped the list. But it is deaths in younger age groups - especially middle-aged people - that have had the biggest effect on life expectancy, experts said. In the previous year there were 45,000 suicides. Life expectancy in 1918 was 39. "Rates in the most rural USA counties are almost two times higher than rates in the most urban counties".
Suicide rates also continued a worrying rise. The suicide rate has increased by a third since 1999, according to the CDC stats, to 14 for every 100,000 people previous year.
In a separate report, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reported the suicide rate increased by 3.7 percent. The U.S. has lost three-tenths of a year in life expectancy since 2014, a stunning reversal for a developed nation, and lags far behind other wealthy nations. Preliminary data from the CDC indicate that a state's overdose trend closely tracks the number of fentanyl-related deaths. Life expectancy for women in 2017 remained unchanged from 2016, at 81.1 years.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said the increasing number of suicides and deaths by overdose was highly troubling. Though constant, the rate has increased over time from about 10 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 in 2017. The 2017 report is the third in a row to show a decline in life expectancy.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a health conference in October, when that data came out, that the "seemingly relentless trend of rising overdose deaths seems to be finally bending in the right direction".
Although the USA has struggled with a drug crisis for years, overdoses have only recently become a major driver of the overall mortality rate because decreases in other causes of death, like heart disease, have leveled off after long-term declines. The map identifies areas where the rate of deaths remains high even when controlling for the age of the population.
Overall, suicides increased by a third between 1999 and 2017, the report showed.
In 2017, the suicide rate for the most rural counties (20 per 100,000) outpaced that in the most urban counties (about 11 per 100,000).
According to the Associated Press, the suicide rate in America has reached a 50-year peak.
Angela Merkel's plane makes emergency landing in Germany
Investigators found no evidence of criminal tampering, a Defense Ministry spokesman said in Berlin. She is due to arrive in time for the traditional summit leaders' dinner.