Years back I wrote about U.S. life expectancy losing pace with other wealthy/advanced nations. There has been a steady decline since 1980. Now we rank 39th with not only countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden far surpassing us, but others like Qatar, Taiwan, and Guam even having greater longevity rates than our nation. Yet we continue to spend an excessive amount of money on healthcare (https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/life-expectancy).
Now another trend is even more disturbing: In addition to the overall declining U.S. life expectancy, the mortality rate for younger Americans ages 25-64 (our workforce) is increasing at alarming rates. The increase between 2010-2017 is as high as 23.9% in some areas of the nation (https://news.vcu.edu/article/Workingage_Americans_dying_at_higher_rates_especially_in_economically). The study done by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has recently been published in JAMA. As opposed to a single cause, the reasons seemed varied. We know that obesity contributes to many serious health issues, and the rate of American obesity is drastically rising. According to the CDC 71.6 % of the U.S. population (20 and older) is overweight. Childhood obesity is at 18.5 % for ages 2-19, which transcribes to 13.7 million. The average woman in the United States today weighs as much as the average man half a century ago, and men now weigh about 30 pounds more (https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/theres-something-terribly-wrong-americans-are-dying-young-at-alarming-rates/2019/11/25/d88b28ec-0d6a-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html).
We are constantly bombarded with news about the escalation of drug overdose, alcohol abuse, and suicide within the nation overall, and this is a significant issue with 25-64 year olds (https://news.vcu.edu/article/Workingage_Americans_dying_at_higher_rates_especially_in_economically). Oddly, the 25-64 age group is also dying from an increased assortment of organ system diseases (neurological, autoimmune, cancer, cardiovascular, etc.).Further research is required to determine the “root cause” since there have been 35 various diseases identified with increased death rates among the young.
The “deaths of despair” – suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol abuse – are being investigated. Deaths of despairare related to economic issues, such as job loss, but also troublesome social issues and increased stress. Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice notes, “There’s something more fundamental about how people are feeling at some level — whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family,” she said. “People are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/theres-something-terribly-wrong-americans-are-dying-young-at-alarming-rates/2019/11/25/d88b28ec-0d6a-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html).
The largest impact of increased mortality since 2010 is with the working-age groups of females and adults lacking a high school diploma(https://news.vcu.edu/article/Workingage_Americans_dying_at_higher_rates_especially_in_economically).The area of the nation that is most highly affected by decreasing life expectancy in this age group is the Ohio Valley(Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania). There are also pockets in New England and Appalachia.
The socioeconomic blow is substantial. Employers are facing the premature deaths of their employees, and this is changing our economy. With the premature death of this population (25-64) children are losing their parents on one end, and on the other end the elderly are losing their adult children.
This is a public health issue. The JAMA report is a comprehensive report looking at life expectancy and mortality in our 50 states from 1959 through 2017. Up until 1970 our nation was witnessing an increase in longevity. Then it slowed down, leveled off and now, since 2014, we are seeing a reversal with decreases of longevity in the past three years. The 2018 statistics will soon be available. Finally, the longevity rates for the 25-64 year olds are even worse than the overall population (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2756187?guestAccessKey=c1202c42-e6b9-4c99-a936-0976a270551f&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=112619).
The lead author and director (Dr. Steven Woolf) of the VCU Center on Society Healthnotes, “The notion that U.S. death rates are increasing for working-age adults is particularly disturbing because it is not happening like this in other countries. This is a distinctly American phenomenon.” We may have our theories, but we need to discover why!
Charlotte Michos is a clinical nurse specialist who values personal-centered care and serves as a Healthcare Consultant in helping others make informed decisions. For more information, email her or call (845) 548-5980.
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