US life expectancy declines for first time since 1993: 5 key takeaways

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Life expectancy dipped slightly in 2015, falling from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 years, according to a CDC report on mortality in the U.S. released Thursday.

Here are five key takeaways about life expectancy and mortality in the U.S.

1. More people in the U.S. are dying — the nation's death rate increased 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, from 724.6 per 100,000 people to 733.1 per 100,000 people. Simply put, 86,212 more Americans died in 2015 than in 2014.

2. Death rates increased for eight of the 10 leading causes of death — only cancer saw a decrease. Below are the 10 leading causes of death listed in order, along with their death rate increase or decrease.

  • Heart disease — 0.9 percent increase
  • Cancer — 1.7 percent decrease
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases — 2.7 percent increase
  • Unintentional injuries — 6.7 percent increase
  • Stroke — 3 percent increase
  • Alzheimer's disease — 15.7 percent increase
  • Diabetes — 1.9 percent increase
  • Influenza and pneumonia — no significant change
  • Kidney disease — 1.5 percent increase
  • Suicide — 2.3 percent increase

3. Experts are unsure what caused the overall rise in mortality. "When you see increases in so many of the leading causes of death, it's difficult to pinpoint one particular cause as the culprit," Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, told NPR. Opioid overdoses and obesity could be driving more accidental injuries and stroke deaths, for example.

4. This is the first time life expectancy has fallen in the U.S. since 1993, when it fell 0.3 years, according to Vox. In the early 90s, experts attributed the decline to the AIDS epidemic, flu deaths and high homicide rates, NPR reported.

5. It is possible this is just a blip in the overall upward trend of life expectancy — Mr. Anderson told NPR that early 2016 data is more positive and that government analysts are waiting for more information.

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