Policy implications of marked reversals of population life expectancy caused by substance use
AuthorRehm, J; Anderson, P; Fischer, B; Gual, A; Room, R
Source TitleBMC Medicine
University of Melbourne Author/sRoom, Robin
AffiliationMelbourne School of Population and Global Health
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsRehm, J., Anderson, P., Fischer, B., Gual, A. & Room, R. (2016). Policy implications of marked reversals of population life expectancy caused by substance use. BMC MEDICINE, 14 (1), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0590-x.
Access StatusOpen Access
BACKGROUND: Life expectancy has been increasing steadily over the past century in most countries, with only a few exceptions such as during wartimes. DISCUSSION: Marked reversal of life expectancy has been linked to substance use and related policies. Three such examples are discussed herein, namely the double reversal of life expectancy trends (first to positive, then to negative) associated with reducing alcohol supply in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), followed by a rapid increase in availability; the impact of the rapid increase of prescription opioids on white non-Hispanics in the US; and the systemic impact of the violence accompanying the drug war in Mexico on the life expectancy of men. Alcohol policies were crucial to initiate the positive reversal in the USSR, and different substance use policies could have avoided the negative impacts on life expectancy of the described large groups or nations. Substance use policies can be responsible for abrupt negative changes in life expectancies. An orientation of such policies towards the goals of public health and societal well-being can help avoid such changes.
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