A recent episode of "The Weeds" podcast was all about this . I highly recommend listening to it and the podcast in general.
The general thoughts are (especially for those poo-pooing the findings):
- The cause is likely a massive increase in drug overdose deaths, whose average age of death is lower than other common causes (>20% year over year increase, mainly opioid-related) 
- The drop in life expectancy is not happening in other countries, just the US (not measurement error)
- It's sort of a big deal, especially if you consider that opioid-related deaths could be going down, or they could be accelerating, we just don't have the data. And if they are accelerating this could be much worse than it already is.
Lingering effects of the great recession.
There is a very strong and well studied relationship between unemployment, economic stress, and drug abuse. These are people who are depressed (clinically, economically, or often both), and they are self medicating.
Unfortunately the media-driven obsession with this topic is focused on everything other than the underlying problems driving the abuse, which is a guaranteed way to never solve anything.
Other measures of human welfare that are declining in the U.S.:
* "This year, the number of domestic undergraduate students dropped 224,000"
* If nothing is done, the number of Americans with health insurance is expected to decline by millions this year (due to the repeal of the health care tax (I forget the term they used) in the new tax law).
* With CHIP not being funded, the number of children with health insurance also should decline.
“Life expectancy at birth decreased 0.1 year from 78.7 years in 2015 to 78.6 in 2016, largely because of increases in mortality from unintentional injuries, suicide, and Alzheimer’s disease, with unintentional injuries making the largest contribution. This is the second year in a row life expectancy has declined (1). Changes in death rates at younger ages have a larger impact on life expectancy than changes at older ages. The increases in death rates at the younger ages from 2015 to 2016 resulted in the decrease in life expectancy observed during that period.“
PS I got this link from another commenter here.
Look no further than "What restaurants opened in the 1950's", since folks who lived thru that are in their 60's now.
Taco Bell, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Shakeys, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, IHop, Carl's Jr, McDonald's and on and on.
It's probably because life expectancy, like maternal deaths (of which the US has U.S. the worst rate in the developed world), can't be faked and spin-doctored by government sources as easily as can unemployment rates.
And by "it's", I refer to the fact that this is known, not to the reason why this happens. Unemployment rates, declining middle class, bleeding working class, and people working shitty subsistence jobs that count as "full employment" would be my guess for the latter (and all that comes from eat: low self esteem, depression, drinking, drugs, poor health coverage, homelessness, et al).
Is there a way to measure “Life expectancy of people most similar to you”?
Seems like that would be a more meaningful metric for an individual, rather than lumping them in with every drug addict.
It’s very frustrating to watch America decline and not being able to do anything about it. Has democracy failed? Is it time for a rekindling of the study of comparative politics? It seems the Chinese have a viable solution to the problem of a largely uneducated and passive populace.
I’m surprised to see nobody call out alcohol consumption.
While this is a few years old, the data should be relevant; alcohol takes years to manifest into full-blown health crises: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Surveillance95/CONS1...
Additionally, there has been an upswing in youth consumption in the past decade directly. We need to have a public conversation about what we’re doing to ourselves, especially in places with the extreme “beer culture” like SV, Seattle and Portland.
This is really bad news and reminds me of: https://www.amazon.com/After-Empire-Breakdown-Perspectives-C...
This guy predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union in his mid 20ies based on statistical indicators like life expectancy.
I didn't see any link in the Economist, but I think this is the original source:
What would be the life expectancy if we excluded drug addiction causes?
Can anyone point me to the ethnic breakdown of the opioid epidemic? Does it cut across ethnicity/race evenly or does one group suffer more (my guess would be white men).
> The last time life expectancy was lower than in the preceding year was in 1993. The last time it fell for two consecutive years was in 1962-63.
Nothing really bad happened in 1962 or 1963. So couldn't the current two-year "trend" be explained by randomness? Life expectancy can't continue to rise forever.
the statistical data given in this article seem to show us only one part of the whole picture...
And according to an article published at  (and of course, by intuition for many of us), there seems to be an association between a person's wealth and that person's longevity.
If the income gap between different social strata has been widened in the past decade, then it is very likely that the life expectancy of poor people in the country decreases much faster than that overall data could tell us....
Time to end the war on drugs and start treating drug addiction as a disease...
Fat people U depressed people => accounts for what, 80%?
Fast food is killing America
McDonalds is at it again
Many call to see the relation with the Afghanistan War and its consequences (or payback). Action = reaction of was it premeditated by the 'elite' as a population regulator as we saw with the cocaine. A way to destroy the more fragile part of the population.
What I took from this was more dug addicts are dying, not "the average American", or did I miss something?
Looks like it's attributed to drug epidemic
edit: I've posted this WP article because I couldn't actually read the Economist article due to paywall, and I figured other readers may have same issues.
Life expectancy is a very blunt tool when measuring citizen's well being.
A few ways life expectancy can go down:
- babies that other would have died and not counted live long enough with modern medicine that they drag the average down
- refugees or immigrants in poor health increase, dragging the average down
- a change in methodology in how life expectancy is calculated