The average life expectancy for white Americans has declined in recent years, according to the findings of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, which also revealed the surprising finding that the opposite is true for black Americans, especially the men.
The results of the study were revealed early on Wednesday morning and revealed that some experts are chalking up the decline in life expectancy of white Americans to drug overdoses while others state that suicides and alcohol poisonings also contributed to the troubling numbers. The fact that the white population as a whole is declining is said to mainly be a sign that there is great distress among young and middle-age white persons as they are dying at increasingly higher rates due to drug overdoses.
All the deaths recorded in the year between 2013 and 2014 showed that life expectancy dropped 78.9 in 2013 to 78.8 in 2014. The decline is mainly amongst white women as more pronounced, changing from 81.2 years to 81.1 years while, though it declined for men too, it did not drop enough to change the average from 76.5 years, which was their life expectancy in 2013. Although the one-month decline for women may not seem very significant it is greatly troubling since, as NPR points out, it is the very first time since the government began keeping records that there has been anything but an increase.
Dr. Elizabeth Arias, the statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics, was responsible for analyzing the data pertaining to whites from their mid-20s to their mid-50s and called the noted decline “very unusual.” The doctor is also in the middle of a larger mortality study that is analyzing trends for the past 15 years, and her findings complement other researchers who have found that drug overdoses, liver disease — often from excessive alcohol intake — and suicide were the main culprits of the depressing trend of shorter life spans among whites.
“For the age group 25 to 54, suicide went up; ‘unintentional poisonings,’ which is mainly alcohol and drug poisoning, and chronic liver disease — those went up by quite a bit.”
In contrast to whites, the life expectancy for black Americans has been on the rise, and in total, they have gained more than a year in average life expectancy since 2008. The average rose to 75.6 years in 2014, up by one month from the previous year’s 75.5. This overall increase was mainly fueled by black men, who saw the biggest increase of all racial groupings as they rose from 2014’s expectation of 71.8 years to 72.2 just one year later.
Hispanics have also taken a noticeable jump in their life expectancy after already having the best numbers, moving to 81.8 years in 2014 from 81.6 years in 2013. Like black Americans, Hispanics as a group have gained a full year of life expectancy since 2008, and the women of that race come in with the best life expectancy overall, rising to 84 years from 83.8 in 2013.
After decades of nothing but increases when it came to life expectancy for whites, the path to the current decline has been thoroughly investigated. The New York Times reported that the last time that the life expectancy for whites dropped was during a particularly nasty flu season in 2005, and prior to that, it was due to the AIDS epidemic in 1993 and even then black Americans suffered the worst and lost four months average in just that year alone.
The studies have shown improvement in the state of health care in the United States, but there has been a decline in causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. However, it has not improved enough to offset the instances of suicides, which seem to be plaguing the nation’s young and middle-aged whites.
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