Declining Life Expectancy in America

According to an article by Joshua A. Krisch, a Live Science contributor, life expectancy in America is declining and maybe the new norm. They recently conducted a study that reveals some of the reasons behind this alarming trend.

U.S. life expectancy has been increasing for decades but is now on the decline. The complete study was published in the journal JAMA. The study found the decline is mostly among the working-age Americans between the ages of 25 and 64. There is an increasing risk of dying from drug abuse, suicide, hypertension and more than 30 other causes that can attribute to the decline.

The U.S. is quickly falling behind that of other wealthy countries in which their decline has not been seen. This seems to be a distinctly American phenomenon, according to study co-author Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. He reports that the health of Americans is inferior to that of other wealthy nations and the decline in U.S. health in relation to other countries began as early as the 1980s.

Five decades of data on U.S. life expectancy have been analyzed in the new study with results showing an increase from 1959 to 2014, plateauing in 2011 and then decreasing in 2014. Drug overdose, alcohol abuse, suicide and a wide variety of organ system diseases among young and middle-aged adults are the main culprits for the decline. Much of the decline was seen among people living in some parts of New England, including Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and in the Ohio Valley, which includes Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The opioid epidemic has battered these areas and more than 1/3 of excess deaths since 2010 have occurred in the Ohio Valley states. From 2010 to 2017 life expectancy has increased for those living along the Pacific coast.

The past decade was the beginning of the opioid epidemic. Many countries experienced economic shifts in the 1980s but the drop may have been due to lack of support for struggling families. Howard Koh of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was not involved in the study but described the findings as to the most exhaustive and detailed analysis of this topic to date.

Koh also believes that one solution to America’s declining life expectancy may be embracing the leading causes of life by paying more attention to how social connections and strong community networks impact wellbeing. It has always been assumed that life expectancy would always increase but now the nation risks a future in which declining life expectancy may be the new norm.

Dr Fredda Branyon