Health of Boston report highlights opioid crisis, positive signs in other indicators

Associated Press/Patrick Sison

An arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York.


The city’s biennial “Health of Boston” report released Thursday provides the latest evidence of the deadly toll caused by opioids, and confirmation that fatal overdoses are being fueled in large part by the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl.

From 2011 to 2015, overdose deaths from opioids surged 130 percent in Boston — with fentanyl responsible for the entire increase, the report found.


In 2015, the rate of overdose deaths linked to fentanyl use — by itself or in combination with other drugs — was 16.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, compared with 1.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2011.

Fentanyl is often mixed with or substituted for heroin, and it can be injected or snorted.

City officials highlighted the battle against opioids as a key challenge in the report, which focused on a range of other important public health indicators.

Key findings included:

  Young teenagers are having fewer babies. From 2011 to 2015, the overall birth rate for females ages 15 to 17 fell 57 percent. The decline among black and Latino females in that age group was 68 percent and 55 percent, respectively.


  Deaths of black infants fell by 36 percent over a decade (from 14.5 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006 to 8.1 in 2015.

  Smoking among teenagers continues to decline. The percentage of Boston public high school students who reported having smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days fell from 8 percent in 2007 to 5 percent in 2015.

  The percentage of public high school students who said they had engaged in binge drinking during the past 30 days decreased from 19 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2015. (Binge drinking is defined as women having more than four drinks within a few hours and men having more than 5 drinks during that time.)

  The rate of overall asthma-related emergency room visits fell 4 percent from 2011 to 2015. For black residents, the rate decreased by 6 percent.

 The percentage of adults who reported having persistent anxiety rose from 18 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in 2015.

  In 2015, 91 percent of Boston residents had Internet access at home. Among black and Latino residents, the figures were 89 percent and 88 percent, respectively.


  About 84 percent of Boston residents had access to a laptop, desktop, or notebook computer. Among black residents, 80 percent had access to computers. Among Latinos, the figure was 71 percent. For white residents, it was 91 percent.

  The average life expectancy in Boston is 80, slightly higher than the US rate.