March 28, 2023 10:51 pm

Local News

Pennsylvanians are living longer, but opioid crisis and rising health problems shadow positives

Credit: iStock

Anzhe Zhang

People in Pennsylvania are living longer, but some health problems have become more prevalent over the past decade, according to a study conducted from 2009 to 2019 that measures causes of death, life expectancies, and other health metrics for the state.

Pennsylvania’s 13 million residents have seen female life expectancy increase from 78.2 to 81.2 years, and male life expectancy increase from 72.4 to 75.5 years. Meanwhile, child and infant mortality rates have both dropped to the low single digits. 

However, not everything is positive when it comes to health data throughout the state. Heart disease, lung cancer, and strokes remain the top three killers when it comes to disease-related deaths in the state, with the three categories seeing a 3.1 percent, 9.1 percent, and 8.0 percent rise, respectively, from 2009. COPD and lower respiratory infections also ranked highly in causes of death, ranking at number four and nine, respectively, markedly higher than other states. COPD saw a 13.5 percent increase from 2009 while lower respiratory infections rose by 12.1 percent.

The double percentage rise for both categories alongside the prevalence of lung cancer in the state highlights improvements that Pennsylvania will need to take to address contributing factors for these kinds of diseases, such as smoking, air pollution, and radon gas exposure.

However, the most notable rise in cause of deaths in the state comes from drug-use disorders, jumping from 16th place in 2009 to 8th place in 2019, showing a massive 142.3 percent increase. Drug use disorders also ranked as “causing the most death and disability,” second only to heart disease.

Elsewhere, tobacco, a high body mass, and high blood sugar levels were cited as the top three risk factors for premature death, with drug use and high blood pressure rounding out the top five.