Americans Are Living Longer, Healthier Lives, But Suicide And Drug-Induced Deaths Are on the Rise | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Americans Are Living Longer, Healthier Lives, But Suicide And Drug-Induced Deaths Are on the Rise

Heart disease and cancer are still the big killers, but digging deeper into death statistics reveals some alarming trends

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Everyone dies some day, but how, when, and why we die keeps changing. In America, back in the day influenza and tuberculosis were the big killers. Now it's heart disease and cancer. But those causes of death are only the leaders when the American population is painted with broad strokes.

Over at Bloomberg, Matthew Klein has put together a striking series of interactive infographics that really drill down into how we die now and how that compares to how we used to die. For the most part Americans are, generally, living longer than ever before. And Americans are mostly dying of natural causes. Looking at changes over time in leading causes of death for various age brackets, however, reveals some intriguing, and alarming, trends.

For example, medical advances mean that, as a rule, we're holding off against diseases of all sorts for much longer. Yet, these gains are being offset slightly by a scary trend: drug-induced deaths among 45- to 54-year-olds are soaring. Since 1990, drug-related deaths have increased by more than 300 percent, from nearly 10,000 people to more than 40,000 in 2010*.

Suicides among that same age bracket, too, have climbed by 24 percent, from around 31,000 people in 1990 to more than 38,000 in 2010*. And it's not just middle-aged people, says Klein: suicide is up across the board.

Yet one big trend holds true: more Americans than ever before are entering the world with the prospect of a long life ahead of them.

*This passage was updated to reflect that these are absolute values, not rates per 100,000—thankfully—and to correct the percentage changes, which were miscalculated.

Michael Klein / Bloomberg
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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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