JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians’ life expectancy dropped in 2018, fueled by an increase in suicides, overdoses and homicides, according to a report released this month by the state Department of Health and Senior Services.
The report, released annually by the department, said life expectancy last year dropped to 77.0 years from 77.1 years in 2017 — down from a peak of 77.8 years in 2012.
That means Missourians are living 1.6 fewer years than the nation as a whole, according to the report. (The report said the most recent national life expectancy was 78.6 years.)
Since 2012, life expectancy for those 65 years or older stayed the same, while the life expectancy for everyone else decreased, the report said.
“(T)he decrease in the life expectancy is more a reflection of increases in death rates among younger persons for external causes such as drug overdoses, suicides and homicides,” according to the report.
The death rate for residents ages 15 to 44 has increased nearly 30% since 2012. The death rate for Missourians from ages 45 to 64 increased by 13% in that time, while the death rate for seniors “has changed very little, and in fact has decreased slightly,” according to the report.
The report attributes the increase in death rates for younger people to accidents (which include overdoses), homicides and suicides. It said opioid-related deaths doubled between 2008 and 2017, and increased an additional 19% last year, from 951 to 1,132.
“Fentanyl was the principal drug most affecting the continued high rate of opioid deaths, as nearly 75 percent (843) of the opioid deaths were fentanyl-related,” the report said. “The use of fentanyl is a particular problem in the St. Louis area.”
The report said firearms were to blame in a growing percentage of homicides and suicides.
The report said 68% of suicides and homicides were firearm-related last year, up from 61% a decade ago.
Though there was only a small increase in firearm-related deaths last year, according to the report, the annual number of such deaths has increased by more than 50% in the past decade.
There was also a small increase in the number of homicides last year, but long-term trends show a marked increase in the annual count: from 486 in 2008 to 657 last year.
Deaths by suicide increased nearly 7%, to 1,230 last year from 1,151 in 2017. There were 775 suicides in 2008.
Overall, total resident deaths increased 2% last year, to 63,110.
“The increase in the total number of deaths primarily reflects aging of the population as the baby boomer population moves into their 60s and 70s,” the report said, adding that an early 2018 flu outbreak contributed to a spike in influenza and pneumonia-related deaths.
“Missouri mortality numbers continued at record levels in 2018, reflecting both mortality increases from a severe influenza epidemic in the winter and premature deaths from external causes such as drug overdoses and suicides,” the report said.
The report also said resident live births increased last year for the first time since 2007; it said 73,281 babies were born last year compared to 73,017 the year before.
Teen births continued to decrease — by 55% since 2008, according to the report.
Both African American and white teenagers were having fewer babies.
The infant mortality rate increased to 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, from 6.2 in 2017.
Missouri outpaced the national infant mortality rate, but health officials said the gap between the rate of African American infant mortality and white infant mortality narrowed last year.
According to the report, the rate of low birth weight babies increased to a record high last year. For African Americans, the rate was more than twice the rate for white infants.
The rates of premature births and inadequate prenatal care were also up last year, the report said.