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Drug Deaths, 2017 Annual Report
Measure: Drug Deaths, 2017 Annual Report

Why does this matter?

The United States is in the midst of a drug crisis with fatal consequences. Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of injury death and have more than tripled between 1999 and 2017. There were more than 70,000 confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2017, and of those, more than 47,000 involved an opioid. A 2017 report from the Council of Economic Advisers estimated the total cost of the opioid epidemic in the United States to have been between $293.9 billion and $622.1 billion in 2015.


Heavy drug use and overdoses burden individuals, families, their communities, the health care system and the economy. The effects of substance misuse contribute to significant public health problems including crime, homicide and suicide, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, child abuse and motor vehicle accidents.

  • CDC WONDER, Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2013-2015

Excessive Drinking, 2017 Annual Report
Measure: Excessive Drinking, 2017 Annual Report

Why does this matter?

Excessive drinking comes with short- and long-term risks. Short-term risks include:

Long-term risks include:

Death rates from excessive drinking increased significantly between 2000 and 2019. An estimated 95,000 people die every year from alcohol-attributable causes, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States, behind tobacco and poor diet/physical inactivity. Excessive drinking is responsible for an average of 261 deaths per day, which is equal to 2.8 million years of potential life lost per year. Excessive alcohol use cost the United States a total of $249 billion in 2010.

  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016

High School Graduation*, 2017 Annual Report
Measure: High School Graduation, 2017 Annual Report

Why does this matter?

The connection between education and health is well-documented. Higher educational attainment is associated with better jobs, higher earnings, increased health literacy, better self-reported health and fewer chronic conditions. Individuals with lower educational attainment are at a greater risk of adverse health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, mental health problems and premature death. Additionally, students who drop out of high school are more likely to experience incarceration.

According to one study, eight times more lives would be saved if the gap in mortality rates by education level was closed in line with medical advances. Each high school dropout costs the United States more than $260,000 in lost revenue over a lifetime based on the differences between dropouts and graduates in income, taxes paid and government spending on health, crime and welfare. Increased time in school is also connected to higher civic engagement in adulthood.

  • U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, 2014-2015 School Year
*Data appearing in this edition are the same that appeared in the 2016 edition; an update was not available at the time of this publication.

Obesity, 2017 Annual Report
Measure: Obesity, 2017 Annual Report

Why does this matter?

Obesity is a complex health condition with biological, economic, environmental, individual and societal causes. Known contributing factors to obesity include social and physical environment, genetics, prenatal and early life influences, and behaviors such as poor diet and physical inactivity.

Adults who have obesity, when compared with adults at a healthy weight, are more likely to have a decreased quality of life and an increased risk of developing serious health conditions, including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, sleep apnea and breathing problems, some cancers and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Weight stigma, or discrimination and stereotyping based on an individual’s weight, may also negatively influence psychological and physical health. 

The costs associated with obesity and obesity-related health problems are staggering. One study estimated the medical costs of obesity to be $342.2 billion (in 2013 dollars). Beyond direct medical costs, the indirect costs of decreased productivity tied to obesity are estimated at $8.65 billion per year among American workers.

  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016

Physical Inacitvity, 2017 Annual Report
Measure: Physical Inactivity, 2017 Annual Report

Why does this matter?

Many adults spend a large portion of their time being sedentary (prolonged sitting) despite the benefits of regular physical activity. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 8.3% of deaths of non-disabled adults ages 25 and older were attributed to physical inactivity. Being physically active and reducing sedentary behavior benefits health. Regular physical activity (at least 150 minutes a week) is associated with reduced risk of:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.
  • Hypertension.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Certain cancers, including bladder, breast and colon cancer.
  • Dementia.
  • Anxiety and depression.

Costs associated with physical inactivity account for more than 11% of total health care expenditures and are estimated at $117 billion annually.

  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016

Smoking, 2017 Annual Report
Measure: Smoking, 2017 Annual Report

Why does this matter?

Smoking cigarettes has an adverse impact on health. As the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths every year. Smokers live 10 years less than non-smokers, on average. Currently, more than 16 million Americans live with a disease caused by smoking. 

Smoking damages nearly every organ and is associated with:

  • Heart disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Multiple types of cancer.

Smoking can affect non-smokers as well. Exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for 41,000 deaths among U.S. adults every year. The annual cost of smoking to the United States is around $132.5-$175.9 billion in medical expenses and $151 billion in lost productivity due to premature death. 

In recent years, there has been an increase in popularity of e-cigarettes, especially among youth. E-cigarettes often contain nicotine and other cancer-causing chemicals, and have been linked to lung injuries, hospitalizations and death. In October of 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of certain electronic nicotine delivery system devices as a tool to help addicted adults smoke less cigarettes.

  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016

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