The life expectancy for Americans has declined for the first time in 23 years.
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the average life expectancy for a U.S. man fell from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 in 2015. For women, it fell from 81.3 to 81.2.
Disease certainly plays the biggest part. There was a 0.9 percent rise in deaths due to heart disease, which is by far the nation’s biggest killer. And the number of people dying from Alzheimer’s jumped by 15.7 percent, though experts tell the Washington Post that the surge is likely due to improved reporting, rather than a dramatic increase in incidence.
But Jiaquan Xu, the main author of the new report, told Stat that he’s particularly concerned by the increase in unintentional deaths. “Motor vehicle accidents have gone up 6 percent,” he explains. “Accidental poisoning increased 13 percent. And 97 percent of accidental poisoning was from drug overdoses and alcohol,” he added, citing the opioid epidemic as a particular problem.