According to a federal report released Wednesday, U.S. life expectancy is stuck at 79 for third straight year. Official statistics show that people born in 2014 should expect to hit 78 years and nine and a half months.
But the fact that life expectancy stalled is unusual since medical research, access to education and health care, and better diets allowed Americans to see their life expectancy rise constantly since the end of WW2.
The only time life expectancy was the same for three straight years was in the 1980s. Investigators believe that the phenomenon may be explained through the increased death rate of drug addicts and a larger number of people that commit suicides.
Other investigators think the life expectancy may not rise any further because of the obesity and heart disease epidemic that affects the nation. Robert Anderson of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the report, argued that there is no compelling evidence to back that theory.
S. Jay Olshansky, an expert in public health policies, noted that three years do not mean that a trend is in the making, so drawing any conclusions is premature. Forty other countries have a higher life expectancy than the U.S.A. In Japan and Iceland, for instance, people expect to make it to 83 years.
Federal investigators calculate annual life expectancy by analyzing data on the elderly such as how old they were when they passed away and what caused their death. Researchers introduce the data in a computer model and estimate life expectancy through statistics.
CDC researchers based their investigation on death certificates of all Americans that died last year, which were about 2.6 million. The team found that the number of deaths saw a spike from 2013 by nearly 30,000 extra deaths, but researchers believe that it has something to do to an aging population and drug overdoses.
Deaths caused by drug overdoses steadily climbed in the last two decades, and surprisingly that is related to prescription drug abuse such as painkillers. Heroin had less to do with the spike in death rates than prescription drugs, researchers said.
CDC investigators noticed that people have a long life expectancy even if they are not extremely health concerned. Life expectancy was high for people who had at least one healthy habit: they were non-smokers, had a healthy diet, exercised or did not abuse alcohol.
Americans who practiced all these behaviors were less likely to face premature death by 63 percent than their peers that didn’t embrace any of those healthy lifestyle choices.
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