Death Rate Among Americans Up In 2015 For First Time In A Decade

Some scary statistics show that Americans died at a higher rate in 2015 than they have for the last decade. This was a surprise to experts, more used to seeing a decline in the death rate, rather than the other way around.

Reportedly, the latest age-adjusted death rate was 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people during 2015, as compared to the 2014 figure of 723.2. While this might not sound like much of an increase, experts say an increase in the overall death rate is incredibly rare.

Based on preliminary research gathered by the National Center of Health Statistics using last year’s death records, it is so far too early to say what is driving the current upward trend. Due to advances in modern medicine, better disease management, along with public safety improvements such as seat belt laws and a decline in the number of people taking up smoking, death rates have improved in recent years. That is up until 2015.

Reportedly, cancer deaths have stayed around the same or less, depending on the report, but other diseases appear to be leading in the increase of deaths, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, hypertension, septicemia and chronic lower respiratory disease.

Deaths from more preventable causes, such as homicides and firearm deaths appear to be on the up, plus there are more suicides, falls, accidents and drug overdoses. The increasing number of drug overdoses and suicides has been in the headlines recently and is especially seen among working-class men, white women and less educated people, according to research.

As reported by Vice News, drug overdoses have been linked to another surprising trend in the U.S. – the increasing death rate among middle-aged Americans. Reportedly, many of these are what have been termed “despair deaths,” and include not only drug overdoses, but also suicide and liver disease.

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According to Farida Ahmad, lead researcher at the Centers of Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, “It hasn’t happened in a while, so we are curious to look into what is going on.”

However, Ahmad went on to say, “But there are no alarm bells. We don’t know if this is a trend.”

Ahmad cautioned that this data is preliminary and that her team hasn’t yet drilled down into demographics, such as race, gender and socioeconomic status. Reportedly the finalized data will be published in December.

Speaking of the increased death rate, Ahmad said, “There’s not one specific cause,” adding that it is a combination of factors, but there are 12 causes of death that have shown increases.

“Any one of those probably is not enough to make that big of a difference.”

According to a report by CNN, the last time there was such a significant increase in the death rate was back in 2005, during an especially deadly flu season. Back in 1993, there was an increase in deaths from HIV, as this was prior to the pre-protease inhibitor era. There was also, apparently, a small increase in the death rate in 1999.

While the current data doesn’t reveal the full demographic of the deaths, and a one-year increase in the death rate isn’t sufficient to point to an anomaly or something else happening with the health of Americans in general, it is a rare enough event to ensure experts will be keeping an eye out for additional trends.

[Photo via Shutterstock by Phovoir]