In 2018, we published a paper called Longevity: Trends and Challenges that discussed the long term increase in life expectancy in the U.S. but cautioned that it had plateaued in recent years and actually declined in 2015 and 2016. This week, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper that includes a good deal of new and sobering data.
Specifically, life expectancy peaked in 2010, flattened for several years, and has now declined for three consecutive years. While mortality improved for infants and the elderly, the decline in life expectancy was concentrated in the 25-64 age group which consists of people who should be in the prime of their lives. The primary causes of death were opioid abuse, suicide, and liver disease, and a disproportionate number of deaths occurred in four states: Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, all of which are associated with the decline in manufacturing in the U.S. The study also notes that life expectancy in the U.S began to fall behind that of other developed countries in 1998 despite the fact that the U.S per capita spending on healthcare dwarfs that of the rest of the industrialized world. These statistics suggest that despite amazing medical advances, there are fundamental economic and sociological issues that are profoundly affecting the quality of life of many Americans and these issues need to move to the forefront of our national dialogue.
For more information, please consult:
Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017. Journal of the American Medical Association
It’s Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy The New York Times 11/26/2019
“There’s something terribly wrong”: Americans are dying young at alarming rates The Washington Post 11/26/ 2019