Speed Reads

out of the ordinary

American life expectancy just dropped for the first time since 1993

For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy from birth in the U.S. declined last year, a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed. Life expectancy in the U.S. typically grows incrementally longer each year — or at least stays the same — but 2015 was an exception. While the decline was by only about a month — from an average lifespan of 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 years in 2015 — The Washington Post noted it's still a "troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems" in the country.

The last time life expectancy from birth decreased was in 1993, amid the AIDS crisis. Before that, it was in the 1980s after a bad flu season. In 2015, there was no disease outbreak on which to pin the unexpected decrease. Death rates spiked for eight of the 10 leading causes of death in the country, with heart disease, the No. 1 cause, killing more than 600,000 people.

Some experts contend the numbers, which the lead author described as "unusual" in that "so many of leading causes of death increased," could easily even back out the next year. The measure, based mainly on the year's death certificates, could also be a reflection of the country's "growing and aging population," USA Today reported. Others, however, think this could be cause for concern. "I think we should be very concerned," said Princeton economist Anne Case. "This is singular. This doesn't happen."