America will have to curtail its escalating suicide rate if it ever hopes to become truly great again.
According to the Associated Press, the suicide rate in America has reached a 50-year peak. In 2017, the United States had 2.8 million deaths, a full 70,000 more than the previous year. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the spike somewhat reflects the aging population, it’s the spike in younger age groups that raises the most concern.
“These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, said in a statement.
In 2017, there were 47,000 suicides in the United States. In 2016, there were 45,000. The numbers keep climbing, contributing to a decline in the overall life expectancy rate, which began to fall in 2015 and 2017 after several decades of escalation. It has not seen such a dip since the late 1910’s, when World War I and the worst flu epidemic claimed one million lives. Back then, the life expectancy was 39 years. The life expectancy now stands at 78.6 years, down one-tenth from last year.
“We’ve never really seen anything like this,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees CDC death statistics.
Of the 10 leading causes of death, only the cancer rate fell in 2017, while increases were observed in suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries.
Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University, says the rising death rate stems from a sense of hopelessness among Americans. “I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide,” he said.
The death rate for drug overdoses rose about 10% in 2017. Accidental overdoses account for more than a third of unintentional injury deaths while intentional drug overdoses account for about a tenth of the suicides.