Anderson said declines like this haven't been seen since the great flu pandemic of 1918 and World War I - though those losses were steeper.
Life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for the third year in a row amid increasing drug overdose and suicide deaths. Also, in 2017, the USA had 2.8 million deaths or nearly 70,000 more than the previous year.
Thursday's reports revealed synthetic opioid-related overdose death rates rose by 45% on average, nationwide.
It marks the third consecutive year life expectancy has dropped in the USA, and the longest life expectancy decline trend since the late 1910s when WWI and the worst flu pandemic in modern history combined to kill approximately 675,000 Americans.
A rise in increase in suicides and drug overdoses was the main factor behind the decline in life expectancy. The life expectancy for women in 2017 was 81.1 years, the same as the previous year.
Life expectancy in the USA began dropping in 2015.
These co-occurrent trends have caused some commentators to invoke economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton's notion of "deaths of despair", deaths brought about by declining social capital and happiness amid an increasingly deracinated society. But it is deaths in younger age groups - especially middle-aged people - that have had the biggest effect on life expectancy, experts said. In years past, reductions in heart disease deaths were enough to serve as a counterbalance to other causes of death, but that is no longer true, Anderson said.
Drug overdoses set another annual record in 2017, cresting at 70,237 - up from 63,632 the year before, the government said in a companion report.
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Among males, the rate increased 26 percent between 1999 and 2017, from about 18 suicides per 100,000 to almost 22 per 100,000. Though constant, the rate has increased over time from about 10 suicides per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 in 2017.
The study also focuses on suicide in depressed rural regions. The rate in rural areas was 13.1 per 100,000 with urban areas having a rate of 9.6 per 100,000. In 2017, that rate had increased by 16 percent, to 11.1 deaths per 100,000. In the West, where heroin is much less likely to be mixed with fentanyls, overdose rates are far lower.
For males, the suicide rate increased 26 percent from 17.8 in 1999 to 22.4 in 2017, while the rate for women increased 53 percent over the same time frame, according to the CDC. The rise coincides with the opioid crisis ravaging through parts of the United States, concentrated in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The CDC issues its health statistics report each December.
For decades, life expectancy was on the upswing, but it dropped between 2014 and 2015, stayed level in 2016 and fell again in 2017.
Meanwhile, the use of overdose-preventing drugs like narcan is being actively objected to by police forces around the country, as many refuse to carry the opioid antidote.
"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation's overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable", he said in a statement released Thursday.
As indicated by the prevalence of suicide in rural regions, joblessness and social isolation reap a awful toll.