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US life expectancy falls as suicide rates hit peak

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The suicide rate in the US is at its highest point in at least 50 years, leading to a decline in life expectancy, new research has found. Stock Image

The suicide rate in the US is at its highest point in at least 50 years, leading to a decline in life expectancy, new research has found. Stock Image

The suicide rate in the US is at its highest point in at least 50 years, leading to a decline in life expectancy, new research has found. Stock Image

The suicide rate in the US is at its highest point in at least 50 years, leading to a decline in life expectancy, new research has found.

There were more than 47,000 suicides last year, up from a little under 45,000 the year before, according to US government records.

Drug overdose deaths also continued to climb, surpassing 70,000 last year, in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in US history.

Overall, there were more than 2.8 million US deaths in 2017, or nearly 70,000 more than the previous year, which was the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The increase partly reflects the nation's growing and ageing population but it's deaths in younger age groups - particularly middle-aged people - that have had the largest impact on calculations of life expectancy, experts said.

For decades, US life expectancy has been increasing, rising a few months nearly every year. Now it's trending the other way: it fell in 2015, stayed level in 2016, and declined again last year, the CDC said.

"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.

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