U.S. life expectancy drops for the second year in a row

elderly man and woman walking

DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS For 2016, life expectancy decreased from 2015 for men but remained the same for women, the CDC reports.

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Life expectancy in the United States has decreased for the second year in a row, the first back-to-back drops in more than 50 years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

In 2016, life expectancy at birth was 78.6 years for the U.S. population as a whole. That’s 0.1 year less than in 2015. For men, life expectancy decreased from 76.3 years in 2015 to 76.1 years in 2016, while in women it remained the same, at 81.1 years. The new data, from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, are published online December 21.

Heart disease was the leading cause of death for 2016, followed by cancer, unintentional injuries such as drug overdoses and car crashes, chronic lower respiratory diseases including asthma, and stroke. Rounding out the top 10 causes of death were Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide.

The overall drop in life expectancy is largely a result of an uptick in the age-adjusted death rates for unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and suicide, the report’s authors say.

Aimee Cunningham is the biomedical writer. She has a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University.

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