middle-aged man celebrating birthday with friends

Life expectancy at birth has stopped rising for the first time in more than 40 years, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

From 2016 to 2017, StatsCan reports, life expectancy at birth did not increase for males or females.

From the mid-1990s to 2012, life expectancy increased by an average 0.2 years annually. Since then, it has slowed to a 0.1-year annual increase.

The stall in life expectancy improvement in 2017 is “largely attributable to the opioid crisis,” StatsCan says.

The Government of Canada agency points to “accidental drug overdoses among young adult men” as the primary cause, noting that the trend is particularly evident in British Columbia.

While more Canadians are dying young, older Canadians are still living longer, the report  indicates.

In 2017, life expectancy for 65-year old Canadians rose by 0.1 years. A 65-year-old female could expect to live to 87.1, and the average male would reach 84.3 years, StatsCan notes.

“Although older men are living longer, the increase in deaths among young men almost completely offset these gains,” StatsCan says. “A similar pattern occurred among women, although to a lesser extent.”

The rise in overdoses is offsetting fewer and later deaths from cancer and heart disease, it says.