Press Room

ASTHO President States Third Year of Declining Life Expectancy is a “Wake-Up Call”

ARLINGTON, VA (Nov. 29, 2018)—Suicides and drug overdoses caused life expectancy in the United States to fall again in 2017. In what is the longest downward trend since World War I, Americans born in 2017 are expected to live 78.6 years, down slightly from the previous year, according to new data from CDC. The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) finds this decline extremely alarming since life expectancy is a key indicator of our nation’s overall health. We must do more to target the preventable conditions that are cutting short the lives of too many Americans, including heart disease, diabetes, drug overdoses, suicide, and influenza.

“Sadly, our nation is in the midst of a public health crisis driven largely by suicides and the opioid epidemic, which we know are responsible for these year-over-year declines in life expectancy. One way to start reversing this trend is for state and territorial health agencies to partner with communities to address critical underlying issues, such as access to behavioral healthcare, education, employment, and social isolation. When we are trying to weather life’s storms, there is nothing more important than the support we have from our community, and the relationships we have with the people in our lives,” says Nicole Alexander-Scott, president of ASTHO and director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “Many states and communities are working hard to assist individuals and families experiencing diseases of despair, but an issue most jurisdictions face is limited resources to identify people at risk for suicide or drug misuse early on and connect them to the appropriate services. A decline in our life expectancy rates should be a wake-up call for us to mobilize resources and strengthen our resolve to prevent these tragedies from happening.”


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.