More than 150,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2017 were related to alcohol, drugs and suicide, according to a report published by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT) on March 5.
Total deaths attributable to these three factors have more than doubled since 1999, with drug-related deaths increasing by nearly 55,000, suicides by nearly 18,000, and alcohol-related deaths by more than 16,000.
“From 2016 to 2017, the combined death rate for alcohol, drug and suicide increased 6 percent, from 43.9 to 46.6 deaths per 100,000 people,” the report said. “While at historically high levels, the increase is lower than the prior two years, when there were 11 percent and 7 percent rises for 2015 to 2016 and 2014 to 2015, respectively.”
Driving the increase in drug-related deaths is opioids, which rose 45 percent from 2016 to 2017 and surpassed the death rate in 1999 for all drug-related deaths.
There was a 4 percent rise in the national suicide rate (the largest yearly increase since 1999), and 51 percent of all suicides in 2017 resulted from firearms.
While the number of people 17 and younger who commit suicide annually is much lower than adults, there has been a 113 percent increase in the suicide rate of minors since 2007 – 26 percent higher than the combined percent increase of all other age groups during this time period.
By comparison, alcohol-related deaths of persons younger than 17 have remained at less than 0.1 per 100,000 population from 2007 to 2017, while drug-related deaths increased from 0.2 to 0.5 per 100,000.
“It is important to see hope in the slowing of rates – but it’s not nearly enough. We should not be satisfied at all. Too many of us are dying from preventable causes, and each time we make progress – like with prescription opioids – new problems – like synthetic opioids – appear,” Benjamin F. Miller, chief strategy officer at WBT, said in a press release announcing the report. “Tackling such a complex problem is not about adding up small changes – but really about transformation at a systems level.”
The full report is available here.