Kids say the darnedest things, and they can have some fairly kooky ideas.

For example, recent research indicates some of our littlest Americans — in the 3-5-year-old category — firmly believe birthdays are the cause of aging.

Some kids learn early on that getting older is not a magic trick, not something that can be controlled by non-biological forces. If someone could actually invent such a device, instant wealth.

Some youngsters believe they are a year older because of their birthday parties, not vice-versa.

It’s good that kids eventually get the truth on aging, because recent news indicates they may not be around as long as their ancestors.

Health researchers reported last week that Americans are dying at a younger age. For the second consecutive year the life expectancy in the U.S. is lower than it was the year before.

A major cause of the diminishing-return paradigm is the spreading opioid epidemic. Officials at the National Center for Health Statistics admit the latest numbers are “disturbing.”

Here’s the overall picture of life expectancy — a baby born in the U.S. last year can expect to live 78.6 years, which is a month less than in 2015, and down two months from 2014.

This is the first time since the early 1960s for the life expectancy to fall two years in a row, and in 1962-63 the chief culprit was a flu epidemic. The AIDS epidemic caused on a one-year decline in 1993.

The real eye-opener in the federal report is that America’s life expectancy is falling, while the rest of the world is generally seeing a decline in mortality, and big improvements in life expectancy. The improvements are showing up in even the poorest nations.

Newborn infants in 29 countries — including Japan, Australia and Spain — had life expectancies above 80 years in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. The average global life expectancy is 71.4 and rising.

So, what’s our problem? Overall death rates in the U.S. fell in 2016, and so did deaths from seven of the 10 biggest killers, including cancer and heart disease.

The problem is that death rates ramped up in people under 65, and when younger people die, the overall picture darkens considerably.

The biggest killers of America’s young people include what statisticians refer to as unintentional injuries, a category that includes drug overdoses, traffic crashes and falls. Deaths from those causes rose nearly 10 percent last year.

And the Centers for Disease Control and prevention make it clear that drug overdoses are the main driver of the nation’s wave of premature deaths. For example, in 1999 the overdose death rate was 6.1 per 100,000 of population. By the end of last year that ratio spiked to nearly 20 per 100,000.

Some of the bad news can be attributed to actions taken — or not taken — by our federal government. Chronically bad roads are killing more young Americans. Under-funded drug-fighting agencies can’t cope with skyrocketing opioid use.

And because little is being done to address infrastructure and medical program funding situations, experts expect the declining life expectancy to continue tumbling when 2017 data is released.

We are approaching the end of a troublesome year in America. The national political scene has exposed some of this nation’s deepest ideological wounds, especially the chasm between political factions.

We know it’s only Thursday, and 2018 doesn’t arrive until midnight Sunday, but this seems as good a time as any to make a New year’s resolution — let’s try to be smarter in 2018.

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