Life Expectancy for White Females in U.S. Suffers Rare Decline

Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, April 20, 2016

Life expectancy at birth for white, non-Hispanic females in the United States declined slightly from 2013 to 2014, a change that could be a statistical blip but still represents a rare drop for a major demographic group, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This unusual down-tick in life expectancy–from 81.2 to 81.1 years–is consistent with other research showing that drug overdoses, suicides and diseases related to smoking and heavy drinking are killing unprecedented numbers of white Americans, particularly women in mid-life.

“Taken by itself, it could just be a random fluctuation from one year to the next,” said Elizabeth Arias, a demographer with the CDC’s National Center for Health StatisticsBut the data, which was released Wednesday, also showed that Americans collectively have lost momentum when it comes to greater longevity. Life expectancy at birth has remained virtually stagnant for the nation since 2010.

Arias said another study by her agency, to be published soon, will document the sharp increase in suicides, alcoholism-related diseases and overdoses.

“Despite the positive influences of declines in heart disease and cancer and stroke, increases in other causes like suicide, chronic liver disease and unintentional poisonings were so large that they had a negative effect on life expectancy,” she said.

Amid the bleak news for whites have been the improving numbers for African Americans and Hispanics, the new study indicates. Hispanic life expectancy rose from 81.6 to 81.8 years between 2013 and 2014; gains were seen for both males and females. Life expectancy for blacks rose from 75.1 to 75.2 years, driven by a particularly large jump among black males, from 71.8 to 72.2 years.

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