A USC study has found that the United States has the highest drug overdose death rates among a set of high-income countries.
Drug overdose mortality has reached unprecedented levels in the United States, more than tripling over the past two decades, said a USC statement. But is this a uniquely American epidemic, or are other high-income countries facing a similar crisis?
“The United States is experiencing a drug overdose epidemic of unprecedented magnitude, not only judging by its own history but also compared to the experiences of other high-income countries,” said study author Jessica Ho, assistant professor at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “For over a decade now, the United States has had the highest drug overdose mortality among its peer countries.”
The study, published Thursday in Population and Development Review, found that drug overdose death rates in the United States are 3.5 times higher on average when compared to 17 other high-income counties. The study is the first to demonstrate that the drug overdose epidemic is contributing to the widening gap in life expectancy between the United States and other high-income countries, according to USSC.
The study found that prior to the early 2000s, Nordic countries had the highest levels of drug overdose mortality. Drug overdose mortality in the United States is now more than 27 times higher than in Italy and Japan, which have the lowest drug overdose death rates, and 60 percent higher than in Finland and Sweden, the countries with the next highest death rates.
“The American epidemic has important consequences for international comparisons of life expectancy. While the United States is not alone in experiencing increases in drug overdose mortality, the magnitude of the differences in levels of drug overdose mortality is staggering,” said Ho, adding:
“On average, Americans are living 2.6 fewer years than people in other high-income countries. This puts the United States more than a decade behind the life expectancy levels achieved by other high-income countries. American drug overdose deaths are widening this already significant gap and causing us to fall even further behind our peer countries.”