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US Life Expectancy Has Decreased in Recent Times

According to Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017, which appeared on Jamanetworkopen.com in November of 2019, life expectancy has decreased in the US for three consecutive years—having stopped increasing in 2010 and has been decreasing since 2014. That’s irrespective of excessive healthcare spending compared to other high-income countries.

JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) commented that the life expectancy data for 1959-2016 and cause-specific mortality rates for 1999-2017 were obtained from the US Mortality Database and CDC WONDER – a comprehensive, on-line public health information system of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis, said JAMA, “focused on midlife deaths (ages 25-64 years), stratified by sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography (including the 50 states). Published research from January 1990 through August 2019 that examined relevant mortality trends and potential contributory factors was examined.”

It was determined that between 1959 and 2016, US life expectancy increased from 69.9 to 78.9. However, it declined for three consecutive years after 2014. The recent decrease in US life expectancy, notes the website, culminated a period of increasing cause-specific mortality among adults aged 25 to 64 years that began in the 1990s, ultimately producing an increase in all-cause mortality that began in 2010.

By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups – caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases.

As for the geographic distribution of these midlife all-cause mortality deaths, the largest relative increases occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%).

For certain causes of death—fatal drug overdoses, alcoholic liver disease, and suicide – women experienced larger relative increases in mortality than men, although the absolute mortality rates for these causes were higher in men than women.

It appears that psychological distress, socioeconomic conditions (income inequality, wage stagnation), deficiencies in health care due to barriers to care, tobacco usage, and obesity all may have contributed to this trend.

The conclusion was that, “the implications for public health and the economy are substantial, making it vital to understand the underlying causes.”

It makes sense for our political leaders to get the opiod epidemic under control – providing more access to wellness-oriented programs for those individuals, who are at risk to a life cut short prematurely—whatever the reason.