Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Not Stayin' Alive So Much

You may have heard already that CDC is reporting that U.S. life expectancy declined by about 1/10 of a year from 2014 to 2015. (Link is to a PDF. If you prefer, you can go to the National Center for Health Statistics home page here.)

Now, this might not mean anything. Life expectancy in the U.S., while it lags behind other wealthy countries, has been steadily increasing. That's why it's a bit of a shock to see a decrease but one year does not a trend make. It's also hard to know what to make of the internals. The age adjusted death rate increased for Black men, and for white men and women, but not for Black women or Latinos. The age adjusted death rate for cancer went down: the main contributors to increased death rates included heart disease and stroke, lower respiratory disease (which is mostly due to tobacco), unintentional injuries, and suicide. While the prevalence of smoking has been going down substantially in the past couple of decades, it's possible that the earlier smoking epidemic is catching up with people now. Obesity may also be contributing to the heart disease and stroke increase.

Unintentional injuries aren't decomposed in this report, but I suspect they're a combination of motor vehicle crashes and drug overdoses. Infant mortality increased, in substantial part due to unintentional injuries, which I would guess points to motor vehicle fatalities.

An oddity is a sharp increase in the age adjusted death rate from Alzheimer's disease. Since it's age-adjusted, it wouldn't seem to be an artifact of the aging population but that could be wrong -- I'd have to see exactly how they did the age adjustment. If they capped out at 85+, that could explain it.

Apart from that, this is consistent with the story we've been hearing about our major public health problems: obesity, cars, opioids and suicide. All problems we can do something about.

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