Why are Americans dying younger?
The following article confirms the overall decline and speculates that it is because of increased use of illicit drugs and more dangerous illicit drugs (such as fentanyl). I too would see that as the most probable cause. Note however that the overall decline was tiny -- .19 of a year or 69 days, which could well not survive replication and is in any case of little practical importance.
It is however interesting that people with a college degree defied the trend and lived longer. My interpretation of that would be that the college people were smarter and hence more judicious in their use of drugs, so that drugs had little impact on their health. They therefore experienced the normal growth in lifespan that is characteristic of recent decades. The dummies by contrast had a higher proportion of heavy drug users among them who largely killed themselves one way or another by their high drug use
Association Between Educational Attainment and Causes of Death Among White and Black US Adults, 2010-2017
By Isaac Sasson et al
Importance: There are substantial and increasing educational differences in US adult life expectancy. To reduce social inequalities in mortality, it is important to understand how specific causes of death have contributed to increasing educational differences in adult life expectancy in recent years.
Objective: To estimate the relationship of specific causes of death with increasing educational differences in adult life expectancy from 2010 to 2017.
Design, Setting, and Participants: Serial cross-sectional study of 4 690 729 deaths recorded in the US National Vital Statistics System in 2010 and 2017.
Exposures: Sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Life expectancy at age 25 years and years of life lost between ages 25 and 84 years by cause of death.
Results: The analysis included a total of 2 211 633 deaths in 2010 and 2 479 096 deaths in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, life expectancy at age 25 significantly declined among white and black non-Hispanic US residents from an expected age at death of 79.34 to 79.15 years (difference, −0.18 [95% CI, −0.23 to −0.14]).
Greater decreases were observed among persons with a high school degree or less (white men: −1.05 years [95% CI, −1.15 to −0.94], white women: −1.14 years [95% CI, −1.24 to −1.04], and black men: −0.30 years [95% CI, −0.56 to −0.04]). White adults with some college education but no 4-year college degree experienced similar declines in life expectancy (men: −0.89 years [95% CI, −1.07 to −0.73], women: −0.59 years [95% CI, −0.77 to −0.42]).
In contrast, life expectancy at age 25 significantly increased among the college-educated (white men: 0.58 years [95% CI, 0.42 to 0.73], white women: 0.78 years [95% CI, 0.57 to 1.00], and black women: 1.70 years [95% CI, 0.91 to 2.53]).
The difference between high- and low-education groups increased from 2010 to 2017, largely because life-years lost to drug use increased among those with a high school degree or less (white men: 0.93 years [95% CI, 0.90 to 0.96], white women: 0.50 years [95% CI, 0.47 to 0.52], black men: 0.75 years [95% CI, 0.71 to 0.79], and black women: 0.28 years [95% CI, 0.25 to 0.31]).
Conclusions and Relevance: In this serial cross-sectional study, estimated life expectancy at age 25 years declined overall between 2010 and 2017; however, it declined among persons without a 4-year college degree and increased among college-educated persons. Much of the increasing educational differences in years of life lost may be related to deaths attributed to drug use.