The last time life expectancy in the United States fell was in 1993, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. And it happened again in 2015, data released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics — a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — showed.
At 78.8 years, overall life expectancy of the country’s population was 0.1 percent lower than in 2014. That amounts to 36.5 days, or over a month. After adjusting for ages, the total death rate went up 1.2 percent from 724.6 per 100,000 people to 733.1.
Males saw a 0.2 percent decline in life expectancy, from 76.5 years to 76.3 years, while females’ life expectancy fell 0.1 percent from 81.3 years to 81.2 years. The gap in the life expectancies of the two genders widened to 4.9 years.
The data for life expectancy for those aged 65 presents a slightly different picture. The total population already 65 years old was expected to live another 19.4 years, the women 20.6 years and the men 18 years, which was the same as in 2014.
The 10 leading causes of death in the country were the same in 2015 as in 2014: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. Together, they accounted for 74.2 percent of all deaths during the year.
While the rate of deaths caused by cancer fell by 1.7 percent, it increased for most of the other top 10 causes. “The rate increased 0.9% for heart disease, 2.7% for chronic lower respiratory diseases, 6.7% for unintentional injuries, 3.0% for stroke, 15.7% for Alzheimer’s disease, 1.9% for diabetes, 1.5% for kidney disease, and 2.3% for suicide,” the CDC release said.
“When you see increases in so many of the leading causes of death, it's difficult to pinpoint one particular cause as the culprit,” Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, told NPR.
Figures for 2014 were adjusted based on data from Medicare, and could therefore be different from numbers previously published.