US life expectancy stalls due to cardiovascular disease, not drug deaths

Neil K. Mehta, Leah R. Abrams, Mikko Myrskylä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


After decades of robust growth, the rise in US life expectancy stalled after 2010. Explanations for the stall have focused on rising drug-related deaths. Here we show that a stagnating decline in cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality was the main culprit, outpacing and overshadowing the effects of all other causes of death. The CVD stagnation held back the increase of US life expectancy at age 25 y by 1.14 y in women and men, between 2010 and 2017. Rising drug-related deaths had a much smaller effect: 0.1 y in women and 0.4 y in men. Comparisons with other high-income countries reveal that the US CVD stagnation is unusually strong, contributing to a stark mortality divergence between the US and peer nations. Without the aid of CVD mortality declines, future US life expectancy gains must come from other causes-a monumental task given the enormity of earlier declines in CVD death rates. Reversal of the drug overdose epidemic will be beneficial, but insufficient for achieving pre-2010 pace of life expectancy growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6998-7000
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 31 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Drug-related mortality
  • Life expectancy
  • Mortality
  • Opioid epidemic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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