US Longevity Gains Stalled

Gains in longevity in the United States were flat for the third  year in a row after gaining for several years.  The average lifespan for an American remains at 78 years and 9 1/2 months though many people are living much longer than before.  For many years, better nutrition, medicine, and public education have led to an increase in the American lifespan.  While great progress also continues to be made in reducing mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two biggest killers, increases in suicide and drug overdoses are up and having a negative effect on the overall lifespan rate.  Researchers are also concerned about the rise in obesity though some recent statistics are pointing to a turnaround and improvement among young people with the increased focus on removing sugar from diets.

— The 10 top causes of death remained the same: heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis, accidents and unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide but  death rates fell significantly for five causes, including the top two — heart disease and cancer.

The largest increase was in Alzheimer’s disease at 8 percent.   Suicides and unintentional injuries — a category that includes falls, traffic accidents and drug overdoses — each went up by about 3 percent.

Unfortunately, the great income education divide in the country is again reflected in lifespan.  Many higher income and better educated people are living well into the 80s and even 90s.  The 85+ population is growing much faster than before.  As I noted in a recent post, many people are not making it to old age though because of poor health, obesity and drug  overdoses and suicide.

The World Bank says the United States is about 40th among countries in longevity.


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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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