For the first time in more than 20 years, U.S. life expectancy declined last year as death rates rose due to major health problems and other causes.
Life expectancy was 78.8 years in 2015, compared with 78.9 in 2014, The Washington Post reported. Men born this year can expect to live an average of 76.3 years, while women could expect to live to 81.2 years.
The death rate overall jumped an age-adjusted 1.2 percent in 2015, which is the first increase since 1999. There were more than 2.7 million total deaths in all categories, USA Today reported.
There were increases in just about every cause of death in all age groups — except cancer deaths, which decreased 1.7 percent — that are now being reflected in life expectancy numbers. About 45 percent of all deaths were attributed to heart disease and cancer.
Research by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton last year showed an unexpected jump in death rates for middle-aged white Americans, according to The Washington Post.
“We’re seeing the ramifications of the increase in obesity,” said Director of the Centers for Disease Control Tom Frieden, the Post reported. “And we’re seeing that in an increase in heart disease.”
Other Western nations are not experiencing the same increases, which is leading researchers to wonder what is changing in the U.S. Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice professor Ellen Meara said a decline in the quality of healthcare available may be responsible and that income inequality, nutritional differences, and lingering unemployment are other possible factors to address, The Washington Post reported.
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