If You Live in the U.S., Your Life Expectancy Just Took a Bit of a Hit

December 8, 2016 | Maggie Romuld

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Key findings from an analysis of mortality in the U.S. indicate an increase in the death rate in 2015.

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time since 1993. That, in turn, led to a decrease in life expectancy, especially among people younger than 65.

Life expectancy at birth for the general U.S. population decreased from 78.9 years (2014) to 78.8 years (2015). For men, the life expectancy decreased from 76.5 to 76.3 years; for women, it decreased from 81.3 to 81.2 years.

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The overall decrease in life expectancy at birth is admittedly small, just 0.1 percent of a year, but the National Center for Health Statistics is watching the data closely.

Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) was interviewed for an NPR broadcast about the report. NPR called the news “disturbing,” but Anderson said that government analysts were waiting for more data before reaching any definitive conclusions.

He also said that the decrease could just be a “blip” in the long-term downward trend in death rates, but it was worth paying attention to the data.

According to NPR, the dip in life expectancy that occurred in 1993 was a result of high death rates from AIDS, flu, homicide and accidental deaths.

The 10 leading causes of death remained the same from 2014 to 2015. However, age-adjusted death rates increased for eight of the leading causes. The NCHS reported that the death rate increased: 0.9 percent for heart disease; 2.7 percent for chronic lower respiratory disease; 6.7 percent for unintentional injuries; 3.0 percent for stroke; 15.7 percent for Alzheimer’s disease; 1.9 percent for diabetes; 1.5 percent for kidney disease; and 2.3 percent for suicide. Age-adjusted death rates decreased by 1.7 percent for cancer; while the rate for pneumonia and influenza did not change significantly.

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Anderson noted that it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular cause for an increase in overall death rates when there were increases in so many of the leading causes of death.

In 2015, the 10 leading causes accounted for 74.2 percent of all deaths in the U.S. How many deaths was that? Last year, there were 2,712,630 resident deaths registered in the United States.

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