Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Sabrina Tavernise


WASHINGTON - Life expectancy declined slightly for white Americans in 
2014, according to new federal data, a troubling sign that distress 
among younger and middle-age whites who are dying at ever-higher 
rates from drug overdoses is lowering average life spans for the 
white population as a whole.

The new federal data, drawn from all deaths recorded in the country 
in 2014, showed that life expectancy for whites dropped to 78.8 years 
in 2014 from 78.9 in 2013. Men and women had declines, but because of 
statistical rounding, the decline did not appear as sharp among men.

Life expectancy for women fell to 81.1 in 2014 from 81.2 in 2013. The 
average life span for men also fell, but not enough to sink below 
76.5 years, their life expectancy in 2013.

"The increase in death in this segment of the population was great 
enough to affect life expectancy at birth for the whole group," said 
Elizabeth Arias, the statistician at the National Center for Health 
Statistics who analyzed the data, referring to whites from their 
mid-20s to their mid-50s. "That is very unusual."

Dr. Arias, who is preparing a larger study of mortality trends over 
the past 15 years, said drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide 
were the main drivers of the gloomy trends among whites in recent 
years, a pattern also found by other researchers.

Life expectancy for whites had been rising for decades, but it has 
stagnated in recent years. It inched up in 2010 and 2011, and was 
flat in 2012 and 2013.

Recent research has documented surprising increases in death rates 
among less educated whites. Last year, a paper by Anne Case and Angus 
Deaton documented rising death rates among middle-age white 
Americans, particularly those with no more than a high school 
education. Other research has found rising rates among younger whites.

The pattern had puzzled demographers, but the recent analyses have 
pointed to suffering and anxiety among working-class whites.

In contrast, life expectancy for blacks rose to 75.6 in 2014 from 
75.5 in the previous year. Blacks have gained more than a year of 
life expectancy since 2008. Black men had the biggest increase of all 
the groups in 2014, rising to 72.2 from 71.8.

For Hispanics, life expectancy jumped to 81.8 in 2014 from 81.6 in 
2013. Hispanic women had even more pronounced gains, with life 
expectancy rising to 84 years from 83.8 in 2013. Overall, Hispanics, 
like blacks, have gained one year of life expectancy since 2008.

The overall life expectancy for Americans, 78.8, remained unchanged.

The last time life expectancy for whites dropped was in 2005, around 
the time of a particularly severe flu season, though it is not clear 
that flu caused the decline.

The most recent dip before that was in 1993, around the time of the 
AIDS epidemic, when there was a decline in life expectancy for the 
entire United States population. The drop was steepest among blacks, 
whose life expectancy dropped to 69.2 from 69.6 in one year.

Typically, most of the deaths in the country occur among people in 
their 60s or older. Deaths in people who are younger or middle age 
are relatively rare and do not usually affect overall life 
expectancy. A surge in death rates at those ages is sometimes 
analogous to a generation of men going to war or a wave of mothers' 
deaths in childbirth.

"There is the expectation that life expectancy will go up every year, 
and that has been realized just about every year over the past 
century," said Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom