This Hasn’t Happened in Decades

Many of us may think we are getting healthier, and living longer, every year. We live in a time of extraordinary medical advances, comprehensive public health campaigns, and a focus on better physical health and nutrition. And that makes a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) all the more puzzling. The NCHS study shows for the first time in 23 years, the life expectancy in the U.S. is falling.

From the Washington Post:

Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death.

“I think we should be very concerned,” said Princeton economist Anne Case, who called for thorough research on the increase in deaths from heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States. “This is singular. This doesn’t happen.”

According to, the age expectancyadjusted death rates rose in most of the leading causes of death including –

  • heart disease,
  • chronic lower respiratory diseases,
  • unintentional injuries,
  • stroke,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • diabetes,
  • kidney disease, and
  • suicide.

Only cancer death rates dropped while Influenza/pneumonia rates remained virtually unchanged.

National Public Radio (NPR) story quoted Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, as saying – “When you see increases in so many of the leading causes of death, it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular cause as the culprit.”

How do our life expectancy numbers stack up against the rest of the world? Not well according to a story in USA Today.

The United States ranked 43rd out of 224 countries for life expectancy in the CIA World Factbook 2015. Leading the pack by far was Monaco, with an estimated life expectancy of 89.5 years. Japan, Singapore, Macau and San Marino rounded out the top five. Most of Western Europe also ranked ahead of the U.S.

Researchers are now waiting to see if these latest life expectancy numbers are a one-time anomaly, or if we should view them as a wake up call. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Working together to find new ways to help Arizonans live longer, healthier lives is an important step toward our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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