Bruce Murphy
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State Life Expectancy Declines for Second Year

Wisconsin's rate of death due to suicide, drugs, or alcohol has risen steadily since 1999.

By - Aug 19th, 2019 01:15 pm
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Pills by Tom Varco (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pills by Tom Varco (Own work) (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

A new report released today by Wisconsin Policy Forum has found that life expectancy in Wisconsin has dropped for two years in a row, largely due to the rising death toll from alcohol abuse and opioid overdoses.

“Life expectancy in Wisconsin has declined slightly for the second straight year, mirroring a national trend and marking a disturbing shift from the longstanding expectation that newborn babies could be expected to live as long or longer than those born before them,” the analysis notes. “The national life expectancy downturn is something not seen in a century.”

“Of particular concern,” the report says, “are the state’s rates of death due to alcohol, among black residents and people in their 20s and 30s, and due to opioid drugs — especially in Milwaukee County.” Drug and alcohol deaths in Wisconsin have more than tripled since 1999, the report notes, and the state’s drug death rate has more than quadrupled since 1999.

While there is often a perception that the opioid crisis primarily afflicts white rural and small-town communities, in Wisconsin it is hitting African Americans particularly hard, especially in Milwaukee County. “Wisconsin’s opioid-related death rate for black residents in 2017 was nearly twice the national average for blacks,” the report found, and “significantly higher than the state’s opioid death rate for people of all races.”

The life expectancy for a baby born in Wisconsin between 2015 and 2017 is 80 years, down from 80.2 years for babies born two years earlier. The last decline in America was from 1915-18, when U.S. life expectancy briefly declined during a period that included World War I and a global influenza epidemic.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control say opioid overdoses and rising suicide deaths “have driven the national decrease in life expectancy, with an increase in alcohol-related deaths also playing a role,” the WPF study notes. “These changes have happened at the same time other trends, such as declining rates of death from heart disease or stroke, enabled some to live longer and caused overall mortality rates among older Americans to decline.”

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