American Life Expectancy Continues to Decline

A recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association described the decrease in life expectancy statistics, noting that the decline stems from the increase in middle-aged deaths from drug overdoses, various diseases, and suicides. Findings show disparities in mortality trends among demographic groups of different races and geographic locations. Despite health care spending in the United States that far outpaces other countries similarly positioned economically to this country, the decline continues, according to experts at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond. “Deficiencies in the health care system could potentially explain increased mortality from some conditions,” they noted.

Researchers suggest that the reasons for the life expectancy decline stem from factors besides the health care industry itself. For example, unaffordable out-of-pocket costs and limited access to health care providers undoubtedly play a role. Mortality rates in the United States increased fastest in the 1970s, according to the recent report, prior to slowing in the 1980s and stalling in the early 2010s. The highest prevalence of decline has been seen among middle-aged adults and it is suggested it stems from “deaths of despair.” Mid-life mortality from drug overdoses increased by more than 385% between 1999 and 2017. Deaths from liver disease and suicides also increased among that age group over the same period of time.

Life expectancy increased from 69.9 years in 1959 to 78.9 years in 2013. The current average, however, has dropped to 78.6 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Life expectancy for Americans is now ranked in the mid-40s globally, ranking among countries whose economies rank well below that of this country.

Although there is no blueprint designed to increase life expectancy, you can improve your own health status by stopping smoking, eating a balanced diet, managing weight, exercising daily, controlling stress to the extent possible, and maintaining a positive attitude. Consult with your provider to identify the factors most likely to contribute to your increased life expectancy.

Author
Ithaca Primary Care

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