The Post reported that some politicians pointed to the rising death toll from “lethal drug overdoses” as a significant factor in declining U.S. life expectancy. The Post did, however, acknowledge that drug deaths “are not solely responsible for the decline in life expectancy.” It is worth noting that opioid overdose deaths began truly soaring after 2010 when users turned to illicit heroin and fentanyl after the introduction of Food and Drug Administration–approved abuse-deterrent formulations.
So how much do drug overdose deaths contribute to the recent decline in U.S. life expectancy? A 2021 comprehensive review of factors affecting mortality trends in the U.S. between 1999 and 2018 found that average life expectancy would “have been 0.3 years greater were it not for increases in unintentional drug poisoning.” In a 2023 preprint article, two Johns Hopkins University researchers calculated that opioid overdose deaths between 2019 and 2021 reduced U.S. life expectancy by 0.65 years. If politicians and policy makers really want to make increasing life expectancy a priority, one huge step would be to actually end the war on drugs. A cease-fire in the drug war would likely reduce gun deaths too.
Last year, Christos Makridis and I used homicide data from the Centers for Disease Control to break down the 2020 homicide spike by geography and demographics. With another year’s worth of numbers now finalized—plus “provisional” numbers stretching into 2022—it’s time for a brief update. The CDC’s data, compiled from death certificates, are especially crucial in a year when the FBI completely failed to collect murder data from many of the nation’s police departments.
The good news is that, after spiking in 2020 and rising a little further in 2021, homicides seem to be falling again. The bad news is that this has been an extremely slow process, with recent numbers still well above pre-2020 levels, even if violence remains far from the sky-high levels of the early 1990s.
The CDC puts the national homicide rate at 7.8 per 100,000 for 2021, versus 7.5 for 2020 and 5.8 for 2019. Here are the month-by-month totals since 2018, including provisional data for the first half of 2022:
The city has only ever recorded this large loss of human life twice in its history, matching the record of 500 deaths during the crack cocaine epidemic in 1990.
Since Tuesday, the total has risen to 502, a 7% reduction from 2021, per the city’s dashboard .
The total in 2022 only pales slightly in comparison to last year’s record-breaking total. In 2021, Philadelphia recorded 562 homicides, with 501 of the deaths due to gun violence alone, per Axios.
Homicide victims in Philadelphia for 2022 spanned across all ages, from as young as 9 to as old as 78. The 500th homicide was a man, 35, shot in the city’s Ogontz section on Sunday afternoon, and he died hours later from his injuries, police confirmed to multiple outlets.
The demographics surrounding the homicides reflect the extent to which gun violence plagues the city. Of the 500 homicides, 30 victims were juveniles, with seven being 14 years old or younger. According to police, 84% of people killed or injured in shootings this year were black.
Taxpayers, survivors, families, and employers pay an average of $7.79 million daily in health care costs, including immediate and long-term medical and mental health care, plus patient transportation/ambulance costs related to gun violence, and lose an estimated $147.32 million per day related to work missed due to injury or death.
American taxpayers pay $30.16 million every day in police and criminal justice costs for investigation, prosecution, and incarceration.
Employers lose an average of $1.47 million on a daily basis in productivity, revenue, and costs required to recruit and train replacements for victims of gun violence.
Society loses $1.34 billion daily in quality-of-life costs from the suffering and lost well-being of gun violence victims and their families.
There was the good news from before the pandemic: the accidental death rate had come way, way down. That was mostly due to improved traffic safety. (Not reduced drug ODs, alas)
In the pandemic, both increased motor vehicle deaths and drug overdoses has pushed up the accidental death rate for teens to increase to levels seen a decade ago.
But there was a bad pre-pandemic trend: suicide rates had increased from 2007 to 2018 — increasing a total of 120% over that period. That was hideous.
It seemed to have reversed in 2019, and come down during the pandemic. The suicide trends in the pandemic really made no sense to anybody, but perhaps the increased drug ODs were actually suicides.
Homicides didn’t have a steady trend before the pandemic, but has definitely had a bad trend during the pandemic. Homicide death rates for teens increased over 50% from 2019 to 2021.
One observation: suicide and homicide death rates used to be about the same for teens in the early 2000s, and then with the bad suicide trend, suicide ranked higher. Even with the increase in homicide rates, suicide still ranks higher.
States are categorized from highest rate to lowest rate. Although adjusted for differences in age-distribution and population size, rankings by state do not take into account other state specific population characteristics that may affect the level of mortality. When the number of deaths is small, rankings by state may be unreliable due to instability in death rates.
“More people die from hands, fists, feet, than rifles. Guess we should ban limbs now…,” reads the May 25 post. Underneath, a graphic titled “Number of murder victims in the Unites States in 2020 by weapon used” shows rifle deaths at 455 and deaths from “personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)” as 662. The post includes a link to a website called Statista.
FBI data from 2020 does show that more people died from injuries sustained from other people’s fists, feet and hands than from rifles. But there’s a little more you should know about that data before you use it to draw conclusions.
Author(s): Jeff Cercone of Austin American-Statesman
Murder rose by roughly 25 percent in 2020 according to preliminary data from the FBI. The graph on the right shows why analyzing data from big cities is the best way we have to understand current murder trends. These figures will be updated throughout the year, and data later in the year will give a much clearer picture of our anticipated murder trend compared to data collected early in the year.
Previously, the largest one-year increase in total number of murders was 1,938 in 1990. The F.B.I. data shows almost 5,000 more murders last year than in 2019, for a total of around 21,500 (still below the particularly violent era of the early 1990s).
The reasons for the rise may never be fully sorted out, but analysts have pointed to many possible contributing factors, including various pandemic stresses; increased distrust between the police and the public after the murder of George Floyd, including a pullback by the police in response to criticism; and increased firearm carrying.
About 77 percent of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest share ever reported, up from 67 percent a decade ago.
The change in murder was widespread — a national phenomenon and not a regional one. Murder rose over 35 percent in cities with populations over 250,000 that reported full data.