New report details Missouri’s decreasing life expectancy

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released a report in September that showed that although the life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years, Missouri’s is 77.0 years, dropping for the sixth consecutive year. 

Since 2012 there has actually been a decrease in death rates in Missouri for those aged 65 years and older and an increase in death rates for those aged 15-44 by 30 percent and for those aged 45-64 by 15 percent.

The main cause of death in Missouri, the report concludes, is heart disease, followed by cancer and chronic lung disease.

The report indicates many reasons why death rates are on the rise in Missouri. One reason it gives is that these deaths of younger people are caused by accidents or overdoses, homicides and suicides. It said that opioid-related deaths increased by 19 percent in the last year alone and have doubled within the last decade.

“Fentanyl was the principal drug most affecting the continued high rate of opioid deaths, as nearly 75 percent (843) of the opioid deaths were fentanyl-related,” the report said. “The use of fentanyl is a particular problem in the St. Louis area.”

Josh Hawley, the junior U.S. Senator for Missouri, says he believes that the rise of overdoses, crime and suicides is causing the middle class to suffer the most. Hawley also declared,  “These numbers are tragic, but they are more than that. They are the signs of a crisis.”

The report also claimed that firearms were to blame for the 7 percent increase in firearm-related homicides and suicides from the year before. Additionally, there’s been a 50 percent increase in firearm-related deaths in Missouri over the past decade.

The report also notes the early influenza season of 2018 correlates with the rise of deaths due to the flu and pneumonia.

Dr. John Paulson of KCU Joplin told that other illnesses could be driving this increase in death rates: cardiovascular disease, obesity rate, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Although not mentioned in the report, a Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services survey showed that two-thirds of those surveyed did not seek medical care due to being uninsured or not being able to pay out-of-pocket expenses. Transportation to get to a medical care facility is also a barrier for some. These problems are especially common for those in rural communities, the article explains.

There is much being done to help combat these problems. After hearing about Missouri’s life expectancy, Dr. John Paulson urged people to get all of their immunizations, and especially their flu shots.

“We know immunizations are proven to help people live longer lives,” Paulson said.

KMOV reported that Missouri Governor Mike Parson decided to send highway patrol troopers to St. Louis in early October to help curb the gun violence that took the lives of more than a dozen children there this year. St. Louis has long had one of the highest murder rates in the U.S. Parson’s plan, however, does not address the racial disparity involved in gun violence in the city, and does not impact any gun laws, which agrees with his pro-gun stance.

Lyda Krewson, the St. Louis Mayor, added that the city of St. Louis is putting $500,000 toward Cure Violence, a program that will deal with gun violence as a public health crisis. The city is spending an additional $1.5 million on preventing violence by putting more officers on duty near the MetroLink light rail system in the city as well.

Citing the Associated Press, a U.S. news article notes there are organizations, like Safer Homes Collaborative, who spread awareness to gun shop, pawnshop and gun training facilities owners on how deadly it can be for a suicidal person to have access to firearms. This organization asks shop owners to provide educational materials and temporary storage for firearms for their customers. The shop owners are also encouraged to participate in a one-hour training session to better recognize suicidal customers.

The state’s report does detail that Missouri ranks the 13th highest in suicide rates and that suicides increased by over 50 percent in the last decade. Therefore, this effort, if successful, may help raise life expectancy in Missouri.

Supporting this point, the Associated Press article concludes, “More than a dozen studies show that access to firearms triples one’s risk of death by suicide, not just for the gun owner but for everyone in the household.”

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