For decades, the life expectancy of the average person in the United States has been steadily increasing. In 1930, the average American could expect to live to almost 60 years of age. By 1980, the number had risen to 73.7. And in 2010, the average life expectancy for a citizen of the United States, of any race or gender, was 78.7. That’s nearly a twenty-year increase in life expectancy over a seventy year period, thanks to new medical advancements.
But over the past few years, something alarming has happened: life expectancy dropped a bit. This stands in stark contrast to the ongoing trend that’s been present since at least 1930. The average life expectancy in 2015 was 78.8 years, while in 2014, it had been 78.9. This might not sound like much of a difference, but this dip marks a serious divergence from the trend of increased life expectancies. Such a dip simply has not occurred at all in the last seventy years.
What Happened in 2015? Why Did Life Expectancy Decrease?
The reasons behind this dip in life expectancy have not yet been fully elucidated by researchers, and the world is still awaiting finalized 2016 data that will show whether the trend will continue. However, what is known currently is that health outcomes in the United States have worsened in several ways over the last couple of years.
In 2015, the rates of eight out of ten leading causes of death increased: heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, accidental injuries, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and — soberingly — suicide.
Negative trends across all of these things are somewhat unusual, especially considering that they’re happening all at once. Mortality has risen across a wide variety of illnesses, and this cannot really be attributed to a single cause, such as the ongoing opioid epidemic.
All of these causes of death are preventable, yet more people are dying from them, and at younger ages. This may be attributable to poor health care, especially preventative care, combined with unhealthy lifestyle factors that contribute to early mortality.
Sex and Racial Factors
People of all sexes and races are suffering, but there’s a discrepancy between men and women, as well as between Caucasians and African-Americans. More men, both black and white, are dying at younger ages. While the gap between black mortality and white mortality has narrowed over the years, African-Americans still have poorer health outcomes and shorter life expectancies than white Americans. The decline in male life expectancy has also been steeper than the decline in female life expectancy.