Life expectancy drops in U.S. for first time in decades

Life expectancy drops in U.S. for first time in decades

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - For the first time in over 2 decades, life expectancy for Americans has declined.

The National Center for Health Statistics, which released this analysis, does not have one clear answer to why there was a drop.

But some local doctors have a few ideas as to why our life expectancy was cut short by about a month.

"Although we want [life expectancy] to approach infinity, we know it never will," said Gerad Troutman, M.D. Chairman at ER Now. "There is going to reach a point where we're going to reach a plateau. Now with one year's data I don't think we can say that's happened yet in 2016. I think the next couple years will be telling as hopefully we continue to make advancements and increase life expectancy, but at some point that may not happen."

86,212 more deaths were registered in the US in 2015 than in 2014.

Life expectancy for both genders and all ethnicities is now at 78.8 years, down about 36 days from the year before.

That doesn't sound like a lot, but health officials are keeping a close eye to see if this trend continues over the next few years.

Of the 10 leading causes of death, 8 saw an increase, and only one - cancer - saw a decrease in age-adjusted deaths.

That death rate decreased by 1.7%, which one local oncologist attributes to aggressive pre-screening efforts.

"[When it comes to screenings], if you look at common cancers, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, they're the more common ones," said Subhasis Misra, M.D., Surgical Oncologist at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. "Lung cancer screenings are also happening nationwide now, it's starting to pick up. So for all the common cancers, if we can prevent them from happening in the first place, or if we can catch them very early, then you have reduced your death rate."

Some of these death rate increases are generational.

For example, baby boomers are getting older, leading to more death from Alzheimer's.

And unhealthy eating and exercise habits are affecting death from diabetes and strokes.

The leading cause of death for most of the country is cardiovascular disease.

See what the most common cause of death is in your area here.

Copyright 2016 KFDA. All rights reserved