US Life Expectancy Drops for First Time Since 1999

Megan Brooks


December 08, 2016

Life expectancy of Americans dipped slightly in 2015 compared with a year earlier, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

In 2015, life expectancy at birth was 78.8 years for all Americans, a decrease of 0.1 year from 78.9 years in 2014, write Elizabeth Arias, PhD, and colleagues from the NCHS, Division of Vital Statistics, in a data brief published online December 8.

For males, life expectancy at birth changed from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 years in 2015, a decrease of 0.2 year, and for females, it decreased 0.1 year from 81.3 years in 2014 to 81.2 years in 2015.

In 2015, life expectancy at age 65 years for the total population was 19.4 years, the same as in 2014. Life expectancy at age 65 was 20.6 years for women and 18.0 years for men, both unchanged from 2014. In 2015, the difference in life expectancy at age 65 between women and men held steady at 2.6 years.

In 2015, a total of 2,712,630 resident deaths were registered in the United States — 86,212 more than in 2014. From 2014 to 2015, the age-adjusted death rate for the total population rose 1.2%, from 724.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2014 to 733.1 in 2015.

"The rate for the total population rose significantly for the first time since 1999," the authors report.

Top Causes of Death

There was no change from 2014 to 2015 in the 10 top causes of death: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. Together they accounted for 74.2% of all deaths in the United States in 2015.

However, from 2014 to 2015, age-adjusted death rates rose for 8 of 10 leading causes of death and decreased for 1. The rate increased 0.9% for heart disease, 2.7% for chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, 6.7% for unintentional injuries, 3.0% for stroke, 15.7% for Alzheimer's disease, 1.9% for diabetes, 1.5% for kidney disease, and 2.3% for suicide. The rate decreased by 1.7% for cancer. Age-adjusted death rates for influenza and pneumonia did not change significantly.

Infant Deaths

In 2015, 23,455 deaths occurred in children under 1 year — 240 more than in 2014. However, the infant mortality rate for 2015 was not significantly different from the 2014 rate (589.5 vs 582.1 per 100,000 live births).

The 10 leading causes of infant death in 2015 also remained the same as a year earlier and accounted for 68.6% of all infant deaths in the United States: congenital malformations, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, maternal complications, unintentional injuries, cord and placental complications, bacterial sepsis of newborn, respiratory distress of newborn, circulatory diseases, and neonatal hemorrhage.

However, 2 causes of infant death changed rank: Maternal complications, the third leading cause of infant death in 2014, became the fourth leading cause in 2015, while sudden infant death syndrome, the fourth leading cause of infant death in 2014, became the third leading cause in 2015. The only significant change among the 10 leading causes of infant death was an 11.3% increase in the infant mortality rate for unintentional injuries.

The data reflect information collected by the NCHS for 2014 and 2015 from death certificates filed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and compiled into the National Vital Statistics System.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

NCHS Data Brief Published online December 8, 2016. Full text

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