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Rural Life Expectancy Falls Further in New CDC Data

This afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released their latest research, compiling facts and figures about the effects of the opioid crisis on our nation. The number of drug overdose deaths across the country in 2017 was so high that it contributed to an overall decline in life expectancy, a pattern that began in 2014 and has continued since. In 2017, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths, a record high number of drug overdose deaths for any year in American history.

The worst states for drug overdose deaths in 2017 were West Virginia (57.8 per 100,000 people), Ohio (46.3), and Pennsylvania (44.3). These states, with large swaths of people living in rural Appalachia, have faced difficulties in addressing the opioid crisis since it began.

We know that those who live in rural areas of the United States are on average older, poorer, and sicker than those living in urban areas. Previous CDC research has already shown that differences in socio-economic factors, health behaviors, and access to health care services contribute to these differences. That research showed that from 1999 to 2015, the opioid death rates in rural areas have quadrupled among those 18-25 years old and tripled for females.

An investment in combatting the opioid crisis does make a difference, as seen in another rural state, Texas, which had the lowest number of overdose deaths (10.5) in the country. While similar to states like Pennsylvania and Ohio in its level of rurality, Texas received the most federal dollars of any other state in the country to combat the crisis following the implementation of legislation from Congress. As an infusion of funds from the recently passed SUPPORT Act begins to reach rural communities, we hope they will see the same positive results.

We look forward to additional research from the CDC on the opioid crisis and the disparities between rural and urban areas in addressing community needs. For more information, visit cdc.gov.

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