MADISON — Life expectancy in
Wisconsin has dropped for two years in a row fueled by increased
deaths from alcohol abuse and opioids, a report released Monday
from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum found.
The group found that increased
mortality among black people was also pushing Wisconsin's rate
down. The state's overall rate mirrors a slight downward trend
Those increased deaths
"overshadow other trends, enabled by medical progress in
treatment of heart disease, stroke and other areas, that
otherwise would be lengthening life expectancy," the report
The national decrease in life
expectancy is the first since between 1915 and 1918, a period
that included World War I and a global influenza epidemic. The
current epidemic is drug and alcohol abuse, the report said.
Drug and alcohol deaths in
Wisconsin have more than tripled since 1999, increasing from 593
that year to 1,985 in 2017. The state's drug death rate has more
than quadrupled since 1999. Opioid deaths increased from 65 in
1999 to 901 in 2017.
Wisconsin's alcohol-related death
rate rose more quickly than the national average from 1999 to
2017. In Wisconsin, the rate was 13.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2017
compared with 11 per 100,000 nationally. Wisconsin's
alcohol-related death rate was more than double in 2017 what it
was in 1999 — increasing from 356 deaths to 780. Wisconsin's
alcohol death rate increased by 101.5% in that span, which is
above the national rate increase of 57%.
Also, the death rate for black
people in Wisconsin increased by 24% between 1999 and 2017.
Nationwide it dropped nearly 6% over that time. Wisconsin's
opioid death rate for black people in 2017 was nearly double the
The problem was particularly
acute in Milwaukee County, where the opioid death rate for all
races was more than twice the statewide rate between 2013 and
The life expectancy for a baby
born in Wisconsin from 2015 to 2017, the most recent data
available, was 80 years. That is down from 80.1 between 2014 and
2016 and 80.2 between 2013 and 2015.
"Though slight, these
consecutive decreases buck a longstanding trend and may reflect
the deeper impact of several troubling issues facing the
state," the Wisconsin Policy Forum said.
The good news for Wisconsin is
that overall life expectancy appears to outpace the national
average of 78.6 years, although direct comparisons aren't
possible due to differences in methodology.