The average life expectancy of a country is widely used as a tool to measure the overall well-being of a nation. While the United States did not lead the charts when it came to global life expectancy rankings (Japan tops the chart, in case you were wondering), it is still considered a generally great place to live in with the overall life expectancy hovering around the 78-year mark as an average for men and women. However, a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics has indicated that life expectancy for men in the U.S. dropped from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 years in 2015. For women, the drop was very small with the average going down from 81.3 years to 81.2 years.
While these numbers may not seem significant, what is pertinent to note here is the fact that this is the first time since 1993 that life expectancy figures for the U.S. have seen a drop. According to Philip Morgan, a demographer at the University of North Carolina, this seemingly minor change in the life expectancy numbers “is a big deal.”
“There’s not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy,” Morgan says “The fact that it’s leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding.”
That said, it is too early to say if these life expectancy findings show a one-time, minor aberration or if it showcases a general trend. According to Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, initial indications after analysis of data received from the first two quarters of 2016 indicate that the dip in life expectancy figures is, in fact, a temporary dip. However, he did go on to add that government analysts would need more data before they come to any definitive conclusion.
“We’ll have to see what happens in the second half of 2016,” Anderson added.
While the fact that these figures are a temporary aberration may offer some relief, even Anderson is of the belief that the dip in the life expectancy numbers is worth paying attention too. While the change in the figures may seem very minute, when you extrapolate the figures to a large number of people, the results are terrifying. To cite an example, if we are to go by the data for 2015, the death rate in that year increased to 733.1 deaths per 100,000 people from 724.6 deaths per person the previous year. Note that we are talking about the lives of people here and each and every life saved matters. Also important to note is the fact that the last time the U.S. experienced a dip (back in 1993) was when the AIDS epidemic was at its peak. That year also saw a lot of deaths from flu, homicide, and accidental deaths.
While we still do not have full details that tell us the reasons for the dip in life expectancy figures for 2015, initial indications are that the decrease has been caused due to an increasing number of deaths caused by heart disease and stroke. Other factors that contributed to decrease the life expectancy figures for the U.S. included Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and diabetes. 2015 also saw an increase in the number of deaths from unintentional injuries and suicide. With so many points to ponder over, there is still no number cause that resulted in the lower life expectancy figures for the U.S. in 2015 — and Anderson agrees.
“When you see increases in so many of the leading causes of death, it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular cause as the culprit.”
Other experts have in the meantime opined that there is nothing positive about the drop in the life expectancy figures for the U.S. — especially since other industrialized and developed countries continue to show a rise in their numbers.
[Featured Image via Pixabay]