Life expectancy in the United States has dropped for the first time in over two decades. Data shows a drop for men from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 in 2015 and from 81.3 years to 81.2 for women.


What’s causing a decline in life expectancy?

The data illustrates a rise in several causes of death, especially heart disease, dementia and infant deaths. It also illustrates that there is a decline in the age of death.

Life Expectancy Declines In The United States

Death rates increased for 8 out of 10 of the leading causes of death including:

  • Heart disease (0.9% rise)
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases (2.7% rise)
  • Unintentional injuries (6.7% rise)
  • Stroke (3% rise)
  • Alzheimer’s disease (15.7% rise)
  • Diabetes (1.9% rise)
  • Kidney disease (1.5% rise)
  • Suicide (2.3% rise).

Heart disease is the biggest killer. It accounts for 4 times more deaths than any the other cause. The relatively small 0.9% rise in the heart disease death rate is a major factor.

Experts point to obesity levels, an ageing population and economic struggles as contributors.

Life Expectancy Declines In The United States

Obesity as a Risk Factor For Heart Disease

Heart disease in the US was responsible for more than 633,000 deaths in 2015, up from 614,000 the previous year.

69% of adults are considered to be overweight in the United States. Furthermore, 36% are considered obese and 1 in 20 (6%) have extreme obesity.

As Body Mass Index (BMI) rises so does risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Plaque can narrow or block coronary arteries and reduce blood flow to heart muscle. This causes angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack.

life expectancy
Heart disease in the U.S was responsible for more than 633,000 deaths in 2015.

A Healthy Heart

Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

Here are a few quick tips for maintaining a healthy heart:

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is one of the most controllable risk factors for heart disease.
  • Focus on your middle. Excess belly fat is linked to higher blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid levels.
  • Play between the sheets. Sexual activity helps lower your blood pressure and risk of heart disease as well as being a workout.

Future Prospects

It’s not all bad news coming out of this US life expectancy data.

Cancer deaths have actually gone down by 1.7%, which is quite significant as cancer is the second-largest cause of death. Research into cancer treatment, as well as campaigns on public education and early detection are having an impact.

This data collected by in 2015 is largely based on death certificates from that year. Experts have cautioned against interpreting too much from a single year of data as we could see a reverse in the figures for 2016.

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It’s good to know.

Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley