Gains in American Life Span Have Slowed

Death rates appear to have stopped declining in the U.S. compared to a long stretch in the late 20th century, when there was a significant drop in the nation's death rate.

The American Cancer Society analyzed trends of life span from 1969 to 2013, using federal mortality data. While previous research had shown death rates in the U.S. declining due to health care improvements and new medical technology from the 1960s through the first decade of the 21st century, the decline in death rates flattened between 2010 and 2013.

Researchers theorized that the obesity problem may be contributing to this pause in the decline. They also expressed surprise because while the death rate has slowed during previous periods, it has never done so this substantially.

More findings from the study which looked at a period of 44 years showed:

  • During that entire period, death rates dropped about 43 percent.
  • Over the same period, mortality rates for certain conditions fell, such as 77 percent for stroke and 68 percent for heart disease.
  • Rate of decline in death rates slowed for some obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

That last point supports the idea that the obesity epidemic may be a key factor in the flattening of the death rate.

This Week's Slice of History: A Killer Smog: Oct. 27, 1948 

Sourced from: New York Times, Death Rates, Declining for Decades, Have Flattened, Study Finds