The final numbers for 2015 are in and it’s now official: Life expectancy for Americans was shorter last year than it was the year before.
A person born in the U.S. in 2015 could expect to live 78.8 years, on average. That’s 0.1 years — or 36.5 days — fewer than in 2014.
The main reason for this decline is that eight of the nation’s 10 leading causes of death were deadlier in 2015 than in years past, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide all claimed more lives last year.
A total of 2,712,630 official deaths were registered in the United States in 2015, an increase of 86,212 compared with 2014.
Those additional deaths boosted the country’s age-adjusted death rate for the first time since 1999, the CDC said. For every 100,000 people in a “standard population” — a hypothetical group with the same age distribution the country had in 2000 — there were 733.1 deaths in 2015, up from 724.6 in 2014. (Age-adjusted death rates allow for easier comparisons from year to year, since increases or decreases can’t be chalked up to the fact that the total population is older or younger than in years past, the CDC explains.)
The increase in age-adjusted death rates was concentrated in certain demographic groups. It rose 1.6% for white women, 1% for white men and 0.9% for black men, according to the report. No significant increases were seen for Latinos or for black women. Figures for Asian Americans were not reported.
Heart disease remained the leading cause of death last year, accounting for 168.5 deaths per 100,000 people in a standard population. Cancer was a close second, taking 158.5 lives per 100,000 people. Altogether, the 10 leading causes of death were responsible for 74.2% of all deaths in the country last year.
One bright spot in the report was that the age-adjusted death rate for cancer fell 1.7% in 2015 compared with 2014. It was the only leading cause of death to experience a decline last year.
Deaths from influenza and pneumonia held steady, while the eight others rose. Notably, the age-adjusted death rate for Alzheimer’s increased 15.7% last year compared with the year before.
Overall, women continued to outlive men, and that gender gap grew by 0.1 years in 2015. The life expectancy for boys born in 2015 was 76.3 years (0.2 years lower than in 2014) and the life expectancy for girls born in 2015 was 81.2 years (0.1 years lower than in 2014).
Women who turned 65 in 2015 could expect to live another 20.6 years, on average, while men who reached that milestone birthday last year could expect another 18 years of life.
The 2015 infant mortality rate was 589.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, a slight increase from the 2014 rate of 582.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. That change was too small to be statistically significant, the CDC said.
The 10 leading causes of death for babies younger than 1 year remained the same in 2015 as in 2014. Sudden infant death syndrome moved up a notch from fourth place to third, switching places with maternal complications. Congenital malformations and low birth weight remained the first and second leading causes of infant death.
The report was published Thursday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
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