US life expectancy fell last year for a second year running for the first time in more than half a century, reportedly driven by the worsening opioid crisis.
Life expectancy in 2016 fell 0.1 years to 78.6, according to the National Centre for Health Statistics.
It was the first consecutive drop since 1962-63. The last two-year decline before that was in the 1920s, according to the BBC.
The previous fall in overall US life expectancy was a one-year drop in 1993, at the height of the Aids epidemic.
Years of over-prescription of opioid painkillers in the US has created a nationwide addiction crisis, with some patients turning to heroin and other street drugs when their prescriptions stop.
“The key factor in all this is the increase in drug overdose deaths,” said Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS), calling the two-year drop “shocking”
In 2016, 63,600 people died from a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – up 21 per cent from the previous year and three times the rate in 1999.
Opioid-related overdoses increased by 28per cent, killing 42,249 people, mostly in the 25-to-54 age group.
A life expectancy drop again in 2017 would represent the first three-year fall since the catastrophic outbreak of Spanish flu 100 years ago.