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Report: Life Expectancy Drops; Increased Mortality Among Black Wisconsinites

The life expectancy for people in Wisconsin has declined for a second straight year, according to a new report.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum compiled data from the state department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing increased deaths from alcohol abuse and opioids. Policy researcher and communications director for the group, Mark Sommerhauser, said he also noticed a troubling mortality trend among the state's black residents.

"What we found is that overall mortality among black Wisconsinites did increase by about 24% within that time period from 1999-2017, and that was something that flew in the face of a national trend," Sommerhauser said.

Mortality rates for black Americans were down by 6% during that same time period. Sommerhauser said he's unsure of the exact cause of the trend, but noted the state's opioid death rate for African-American people in 2017 was nearly double the national average. In Milwaukee County, the opioid death rate for all races was more than twice the statewide rate between 2013 and 2017.

According to the most recent data available, the life expectancy for babies born in Wisconsin from 2015-2017 was 80 years. Sommerhauser said that's down from 80.1 years in 2014-2016, and from 80.2 years in 2013-2015.

"These are relatively small declines that we're seeing, but nonetheless we thought pretty significant in the sense that it does fly in the face of a trend that has been playing out for 100 years," he said.

Sommerhauser said their research did not evaluate if the state life expectancy decline is statistically significant, as that is not calculated by the Department of Health Services. Overdoses and rising suicide deaths have driven a nation-wide decrease in life expectancy, with an increase in alcohol-related deaths also playing a role, according to experts at the Centers for Disease Control.

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