Will American Life Expectancies Continue to Decline?
Is this a temporary fluke, or will the trend of moderate declines in American life expectancies continue to develop over the coming years? It’s hard to say for sure, but the outlook isn’t particularly promising. Part of the reason is almost certainly a combination of unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as obesity and accompanying symptoms of metabolic syndrome, and poor access to preventive health care.
Before leaving office, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law, arguably the biggest new piece of healthcare legislation since the Affordable Care Act was put into effect. While this is intended to help fund treatments that cure existing disease, it, unfortunately, doesn’t do anything to help foster better access to preventive care. The drop in life expectancy and rise in mortality rates has been most pronounced among people under 65. While health outcomes for diseases like stroke and heart disease had been improving for years, they are now getting worse.
Between high obesity rates, an ongoing opioid epidemic, and difficulties affording healthcare, things don’t look good. It’s almost certain that the economic downturn that began in 2008 is part of the underlying reason for these developments.
To keep life expectancy increasing instead of decreasing, it could be argued that a renewed focus is needed on both preventive care and the maintenance of healthy lifestyles. Without preventive care, diseases are less likely to be caught in early stages.
Fixing the Problem
There are no easy answers to fixing the problem of increasing mortality rates among people under 65, and the accompanying decline in overall American life expectancies. The solution possibly lies in a combination of better health education and better access to preventive medicine.