business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Washington Post this morning reports that a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics says that "for the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year."

According to the story, "Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy ... In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death."

The Post goes on: "Overall, life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, according to the latest data. The last time U.S. life expectancy at birth declined was in 1993, when it dropped from 75.6 to 75.4, according to World Bank data.

"The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent in 2015, its first uptick since 1999. More than 2.7 million people died, about 45 percent of them from heart disease or cancer ... The report’s lone bright spot was a drop in the death rate from cancer, probably because fewer people are smoking, the disease is being detected earlier and new treatments have been developed recently, experts said.

"The largest rate jump for any cause of death was for Alzheimer’s disease, which went from 25.4 to 29.4 deaths per 100,000 people. But several experts attributed that to greater reporting of the disease as a cause of death, not by any huge growth in the number of people who died."

And: "Death rates rose for white men, white women and black men. They stayed essentially even for black women and Hispanic men and women."

Wow. Talk about an Eye-Opener.

The decline in life expectancy in the US - which is contrary, I think, to the trends taking place in much of the industrialized world - also is said to be related to what are called "diseases of despair," such as overdoses and suicide that are a result of depression and addiction.

This all comes at a time when one would think that the public consciousness about things like diet and exercise would seem to be higher than ever before. And it also comes at a time when backsliding in terms of public health almost certainly is having an impact on things like healthcare spending, as well as entitlement programs such as Medicare. (Though I suppose if people stop living as long, it could relieve some of the pressure on Social Security. I'm pretty sure that the decline won't have any appreciable impact on Social Security spending, though...and I'm very sure that this would not be something to celebrate.)

In short, it ain't good.
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