Improvements in modern medicine and efforts to give more people access to that medicine have encouraged a steady decline in the United States yearly death rate for the last 10 years – until now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary data from which the medical science community has concluded that a larger proportion of the nation's population died in 2015 than any of the 10 years before.
The US death rate rose from 723.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014 to 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015. There are 3 main causes that account for the increase: opioid painkiller abuse, suicide, and Alzheimer's disease.
Abuse of Opioid Pain Killers
Sometimes labeled as narcotics, opioid painkillers are prescription medicines such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin that control chronic pain with a mechanism similar to heroin. Even prescribed medications have an unusually high rate of addiction, and some opioid painkillers such as methadone are used almost exclusively for weaning patients off of an opioid regimen.
The number of prescriptions filled for patients who do not need chronic pain control assistance has increased enough over the last few years that companies such as Cigna, a major US health insurer, are making efforts to reduce the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers directly.
Marked Increase in Suicide Rate
In the last few years, suicide rates for both males and females in all age groups under 75 have risen. In some cases, the rate has climbed as much as 63% in 15 years. Suicide is at its highest point in 30 years, but most can only speculate as to why.
Critics look to the rapid growth of both cyber-bullying and of working standards in the tech industry.
There are more channels available now than ever before for verbal abuse to occur over the internet. In most cases, these events go unchecked by parents or guardians, increasing the risk of suicide.
Tech Industry Work
The working class moving into the tech world is faced with a severely unbalanced ratio of time at work to time away. Expectations to work nights and weekends have become standard for tech jobs, and it can take only a small amount of time to increase stress to suicidal levels.
Presence of Alzheimer's Disease
The increasing potential to encounter Alzheimer's symptoms is leading to a rising death toll for those who have succumbed to its grips. The swelling life expectancy in America may be a double-edged sword. Aging is one of the main causes of the onset of Alzheimer's and could be partially to blame for the death rate. 95% of those coping with Alzheimer's see their first symptoms after age 65.
To prevent additional growth in the U.S. death rate in the medical community, physicians and drug manufacturers must do their best to curtail the abuse of prescription drugs that come with side effects including suicidal thoughts, improve efficacy of Alzheimer's medication and ensure that patients who use opioid painkillers are not only in need of the medication but are using it properly.