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Life expectancy increased overall in the United States between 2000 and 2015, but opioid-related deaths reduced the gains made, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published today.

The bottom line: U.S. life expectancy was steadily rising since 1970 but stopped in 2014, mostly because of drug-related deaths.

Expand chart

Data: Journal of the American Medical Association; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Key findings:

  • Life expectancy rose two years, from 76.8 to 78.8 years, between 2000 and 2015.
  • During that period, decreased death rates due to stroke, cancer, heart disease and other conditions increased life expectancy by 2.25 years.
  • But the increase was offset about 2.5 months by opioid-related deaths.
  • In 2000, there were 17,415 drug-related deaths (including opioids but other drugs as well). In 2015, there were more than 52,400, bumping drug overdoses into the 12 leading causes of death in the country.
  • Data were collected from death certificates, and the authors wrote that the contribution of opioid-involved deaths to the change in life expectancy is likely an underestimate because a specific drug is not always recorded.
  • In the early 2000s, increases in overdose deaths were tied to prescription opioid use but more recently illicit fentanyl and heroin use are driving a surge. That is a difficult demarcation, though. According to Stanford University's Keith Humphreys, "4/5 of people on heroin started on prescription opioids."

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump-backed Perdue says he wouldn’t have certified Georgia 2020 results

Perdue at a December 2020 campaign event in Columbus, Ga. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue wouldn’t have signed the certification of the state’s 2020 election results if he had been governor at the time, the former Senate Republican told Axios.

  • “Not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this. And I wouldn’t have signed it until those things had been investigated and that’s all we were asking for," he said.

Why it matters: There has been no evidence widespread fraud took place in Georgia's elections last year and the November results were counted three times, once by hand.

Beijing Olympics: These countries have announced diplomatic boycotts

Photo: Zhang Qiang/VCG via Getty Images

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have announced they will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human rights abuses committed by China's government.

Driving the news: Leaders have faced pressure from human rights groups and others to boycott the Games, pointing to the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang region and other abuses.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.