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As recently as 2013, synthetic opioids accounted for just 1 death for every 100,000 people. The rate in 2016 was 6.2 per 100,000. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Americans’ life expectancy at birth declined for the second year in a row in 2016 as the nation grappled with an opioid crisis, the first time that’s happened in more than half a century.

Broad declines in life expectancy are unusual in modern, wealthy nations — absent war or epidemics — and the reversal in the U.S. has been years in the making. Americans have shorter lives than citizens of other rich nations like Japan, Germany or Canada, and the gap in lifespans has been increasing, according to a 2013 National Academies of Sciences report.

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