After years on the decline, life expectancy in the United States has finally seen an increase, however slight.
According to BuzzFeed News, federal health officials at the National Center for Health Statistics reported life expectancy in the U.S. increased by about a month to 78.7 in 2018. This increase marks the first time U.S. life expectancy hasn’t declined since 2014, although it still falls short of that year’s peak expectancy of 78.9 years.
The arrested decline has been attributed to falling heart disease and cancer death rates, as well as a four-percent decrease in drug overdose deaths for the first time in 28 years.
While HHS Secretary Alex Azar called the news “a real victory” in a statement, Regina LaBelle of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center took a more measured approach, telling BuzzFeed News, “We should be cautiously optimistic,” adding that the latest data merely represents “a one year snapshot of a moving picture.”
Meanwhile, though death rates were down among the majority of leading causes of death in the U.S., two of the top 10 — flu and suicide — saw increases.
LaBelle also pointed to the fact that while drug-related deaths dropped overall, they continued to increase in California, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey and South Carolina.
Overall, life expectancy was relatively stagnant throughout the 2010s, despite some fluctuations, compared to a steady increase throughout the 2000s.
“Whether the small increase of 2018 will be the beginning of a new period of growth or another fluctuation of a decade-long flat trend, only time will tell,” sociologist Francesco Acciai of Arizona State University told BuzzFeed News.
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