Life Expectancy Drops Again in 2016; Overdose Deaths Reach 63,600

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2017

Contact: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, Office of Communication (301) 458-4800

Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2016. Data Brief No. 294

Mortality in the United States, 2016. Data Brief No. 293

Life expectancy declined in the U.S. for the second consecutive year in 2016, and mortality from drug overdoses increased 21%, according to two new reports to be released Thursday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The report “Mortality in the United States: 2016” features the first public release of final mortality data for 2016, and documents that life expectancy for the U.S. population in 2016 was 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 year from 2015. This was the first time life expectancy in the U.S. has declined two years in a row since declines in 1962 and 1963¹.

The new report shows the decline in life expectancy occurred despite an overall decline in U.S. mortality. The age-adjusted death rate for the entire U.S. population decreased by 0.6% from 733.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2015 to 728.8 in 2016. Age-specific death rates between 2015 and 2016 increased for younger age groups and decreased for older age groups.

The new mortality report also shows that the 10 leading causes of death in 2016 remained the same as in 2015; however, unintentional injuries (accidents) became the third leading cause of death, overtaking chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD), which dropped to fourth. Accident mortality increased 9.7% between 2015 and 2016, while mortality from CLRD declined 2.4%.

The second report released on Thursday, “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2016,” reveals that the official number of drug overdose deaths among residents in the United States² was 63,600 in 2016. The majority of these overdose deaths were unintentional.

Other findings documented in the overdose report:

  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016 (19.8 per 100,000) was 21% higher than the rate in 2015 (16.3).
  • Adults aged 25-34, 35-44, and 45–54 had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2016 at around 35 per 100,000.
  • The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) doubled between 2015 and 2016, from 3.1 to 6.2 per 100,000.
  • West Virginia (52.0 per 100,000), Ohio (39.1), New Hampshire (39.0), the District of Columbia (38.8), and Pennsylvania (37.9) had the highest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2016.

The two reports, “Mortality in the United States, 2016” and “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2016” will both be available on the NCHS web site at

¹Table 19 of “United States Life Tables, 2014”
²Provisional counts of drug overdose deaths that have been previously reported include deaths to non-U.S. residents and do not include deaths that were still under investigation.