U.S. life expectancy has dropped for the first time in decades

U.S. life expectancy has dropped for the first time in decades

American life expectancy has dropped for the first time in decades.

For the first time since 1993, Americans death rates are increasing and they are also dying younger.

An average American can now expect to live 78.8 years, according to a recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, which is a drop of 0.1 from last year. While this doesn’t sound significant, it may signal a much more severe trend to come.

This is a big deal,” says Philip Morgan, a demographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who was not involved in the new analysis.

“There’s not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy,” he says. “The fact that it’s leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding.”

Deaths from accidental injuries, including drug overdoses have also dramatically increased since 2014. Heroin overdose and prescription painkiller overuse is a big part of this trend, but doesn’t show the full picture.

If it was all about opioids, we might focus our efforts on [that issue],” said Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. “But we see that strokes, heart disease, and chronic lower respiratory disease deaths are rising as well, suggesting the problem is even more widespread than we thought.”

There is a chance that this data could just be a one time blip on the radar. In fact, an analysis of the statistics shows that may be the case, says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics.

Anderson says analysts are still waiting on more data before reaching any definitive statements.

We’ll have to see what happens in the second half of 2016,” he says.

Experts believe that poverty, depression, stress, and poor nutrition also account for the death rate increase.

We might be seeing the drag that decades of stagnant wages, growing inequality, and the associated behavioral (e.g. smoking, diet, activity) and psychosocial (e.g. chronic stress, depression) factors have on eventual mortality,” said Michael Kramer, a professor of epidemiology at Emory University, via e-mail. Americans are hit harder than other rich countries are by these forces, he posits, both because of our skimpy preventive health care and because “the U.S. has higher income inequality and less comprehensive social safety net, so the ill-effects of poverty may take an undo toll.”

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1. “Life Expectancy In U.S. Drops For First Time In Decades, Report Finds.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
2. “US Life Expectancy Drops for First Time in Decades.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
3. “Why Are So Many Americans Dying Young?The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
4. “Mortality in the United States, 2015.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 08 Dec. 2016. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.

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