interviews | St. Louis Public Radio


An illustration of prescription drugs.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

To measure how healthy a community is, health experts often look to life expectancy – how long a person is expected to live assuming no major catastrophies occur. It’s what’s called an indicator, or a statistic that reflects overall well-being.

For decades, the life expectancy in the United States steadily increased as medical breakthroughs helped people live longer. But in the past few years, life expectancy has started to decrease – an unprecedented step backward in the modern age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a trio of reports late last year, attributed the decrease to significantly growing numbers of drug overdoses and suicides. Missouri has followed the national trend.

Six years ago, a Missourian was expected to live for nearly 78 years. Now, that number is closer to 77. St. Louis Public Radio reporter Sarah Fentem talked to Rachel Winograd of the University of Missouri – St. Louis to find out what can be done.