THURSDAY, Jan. 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) — After four years of declines, life expectancy in the United States increased in 2018, health officials reported Thursday.
The jump in longevity comes as deaths from opioid overdoses dropped for the first time in 28 years, as did deaths from six of the 10 leading causes.
The new data could be a glimmer of good news for Americans’ health, with recent declines in average lifespans initially casting doubt on progress made over the past decades.
“The three-year trend in life expectancy for the total population either decreasing or remaining steady has stopped, with the increase in life expectancy in 2018,” said lead researcher Kenneth Kochanek, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
“The decrease in mortality from unintentional injuries in 2018 is a reverse from the 2014-to-2017 trend,” he added.
“From 2014 to 2017, the increase in deaths from unintentional injuries contributed the most to the decrease in life expectancy, with decreases in cancer mortality offsetting this change in life expectancy,” Kochanek said.
Between 2010 and 2014, life expectancy increased from 78.7 years to 78.9 years, then fell between 2014 and 2017 from 78.9 years to 78.6 years.
But in 2018, it went back to 78.7 years, which is still below the peak of 78.9 years in 2014, Kochanek said.
The 10 leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu, kidney disease, suicide, cancer and accidents.
Between 2017 and 2018, decreases in deaths from cancer and unintentional injuries contributed the most to the increase in life expectancy, with increases in mortality from influenza and pneumonia offsetting the change in life expectancy, Kochanek added.
According to Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, “After years of plateauing and declining U.S. life expectancy, this one-year uptick is certainly welcome news.”
But more detailed evaluation over time is needed to judge whether declining trends are truly being reversed, he said.