Will You “Live Long and Prosper”?

In the last decade, there have been fewer deaths from car accidents, cancer, and heart disease. With advances in medical care for the elderly, Americans are living significantly longer. However, the death rate (# deaths per 100,000) has not declined in the last couple years, even increasing from 2014 to 2015.

The increase reflects the increase in drug overdoses, homicides, suicides, alcohol-related disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and other health problems. A variety of self-destructive behaviors are killing thousands of Americans at an earlier age. There have been increases before, normally caused by contagion such as HIV or influenza, but this was the first increase in 10 years.

Black people gained 3.6 years in life expectancy from 2000 to 2014, while hispanics added 2.6 years and only 1.4 years for whites. Non-hispanic whites still have higher life expectancy (78.8 years) than blacks (75.2 years), while Hispanics have the highest life expectancy of the three groups at 81.8 years.

The weak gains for whites relates to the spike in “unintentional poisonings”, what the CDC calls overdoses. Overdoses have greatly affected the 25 to 34 age group. Death rates from “unintentional injuries”, including car accidents, drowning, and falls, increased 73.5% for whites in the 45 to 54 age group. Suicides in the same age group rose 57.5% and chronic liver disease rose 30.9%. Middle-aged Americans with a high school education or less had increased mortality overall. The death rate for white women increased more than white men, particularly in small cities and rural areas. Thus, life expectancy has dropped for white Americans aged 25-54 years.

On the upside, older whites age 65 to 84 have gained somewhat in life expectancy. You may live a very long time if you can avoid dying young.

Achenbach, Joel. “Life expectancy is up sharply for blacks and Hispanics; whites are lagging.” To Your Health. The Washington Post, 3 Jun 2016. Web. 9 Jun 2016.

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