If you're concerned about Americans' health, we have some bad news for you: U.S. life expectancy has declined for the first time in over two decades, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
The NCHS report, which was released today, "presents 2015 U.S. final mortality data on deaths and death rates by demographic and medical characteristics." So how's it looking for us? Not good. Not good at all.
That's right—life expectancy for the total U.S. population actually declined in 2015 to 78.8 years, down from 78.9 years in 2014. The life expectancy of American men dropped to 76.3 years in 2015, compared to 76.5 in 2014. For women, life expectancy dropped from 81.3 years in 2014 to 81.2 years in 2015.
That might not seem like much, but that's the first decline in American life expectancy since 1993—more than two decades ago—when the HIV/Aids crisis was at its peak, according to BBC. It also dipped back in 1980, when there was a severe flu outbreak. For the most part though, life expectancy has gone up. After World War II, life expectancy has slightly and steadily improved most years, up from just over 68 years in 1950.
The ten leading causes of death—which accounted for 74.2 percent of all deaths in the United States in 2015—remained the same as they were in 2014: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.
From 2014 to 2015, the death rates increased for eight of those top 10 leading causes of death; the death rate for cancer dropped by 1.7 percent, and the rate for influenza and pneumonia did not significantly change.
There were 2.7 million deaths registered in America in 2015, which is 86,212 more than the deaths in 2014. The age-adjusted death rate between 2014 and 2015 increased 1.2 percent—the first time the total population's rate has significantly increased since 1999.
It's not yet clear whether the decline in life expectancy is just a one time thing, or an indication of a future trend. Life expectancy has essentially remained flat the last few years, which differs from the steady increases of the previous decades. Professor Jonathan Skinner of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice told USA Today that the decline "could be a blip, but even if it’s flat, we have a real problem."
USA Today also reports that the U.S. ranks 43rd in life expectancy, out of 224 countries.