CDC officials track the rate at which citizens of the U.S. die and how long they are expected to live. According to the latest report the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.8 years (down 0.1 years from 2015).
Life Expectancy in the U.S.
While an overall life expectancy decrease of 0.1 years doesn’t seem large. The more disturbing fact is that the overall death rate has increased for the first time in over a decade, especially in people ages 65 and younger.
“This is a big deal,” said Philip Morgan, a demographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “There’s not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy. The fact that it’s leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding.”
What Does the Declining Life Expectancy Mean?
Robert Anderson, Chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch of the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the report, said that the findings in this year’s report could simply be a one-time occurrence. This is because analysis from the first half of 2016 suggests that life expectancy will likely be back up for next year’s report.
The group of researchers will have to wait for data to come in for the second half of 2016 to determine if that is the case. Anderson said that the data from 2015 is still worth paying attention to though. Throughout 2015 the death rate in the U.S. increased from 724.6 per 100,000 people to 733.1 per 100,000.
The increasing death rate was enough to make the life expectancy in the United States fall slightly for the first time since 1993. Actually, the life expectancy rate has only dropped a few times in the past 50 years. The last dip in 1993 was due to higher death rates from AIDS, the flu, homicide and accidental deaths throughout the year.
The overall life expectancy dropped from 78.9 years to 78.8 years. For men it fell from 76.5 years to 76.3 and for women it dropped from 81.3 to 81.2.
What Made Life Expectancy in the U.S. Drop?
All in all, the decline in life expectancy was truly driven by increase in deaths from eight of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country. “When you see increases in so many of the leading causes of death, it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular cause as the culprit,” Anderson stated.
The most notable reason behind the death rate increase are deaths from heart disease and stroke. Other notable contributors were deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Additionally, more Americans died in 2015 from accidental injuries and suicide than recent years.
Key Factors in Increased Death Rates
American obesity could be playing a key role in the increase in deaths from heart disease, diabetes and stroke (and possibly Alzheimer’s). Doctors have also reached a limit of what they are able to do to treat each of these health issues, which may have also affected the life expectancy calculation.
Addiction is playing another key role, according to NPR. Opioid painkillers and heroin abuse fueled the increase in accidental or unintentional injuries in 2015. It has also been noted that the increase in drug abuse could be due to economic factors, including deindustrialization and poverty.
The decrease in life expectancy should be concerning not only because life expectancy is dropping but also because in most other industrialized countries comparable to the U.S. life expectancy is still on the rise – indicating that the United States may be falling behind on key health indicators.
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