More than a month was slashed from an average American life in 2015, according to National Center for Health Statistics data. A person born in the US in 2015 can expect to live 78.8 years, compared to 78.9 years in 2014. Life expectancy also fell from 76.5 years to 76.3 for men and from 81.3 to 81.2 for women. "This is a big deal," a demographer tells NPR, noting this is the first time US life expectancy has fallen since 1993, which had high death rates from AIDS, flu, murder, and accidents. "There's not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy," he says. "The fact that it's leveling off in the US is a striking finding." What gives? Well, the overall death rate rose from 724.6 per 100,000 people in a standard population to 733.1 in 2015 as deaths increased from heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, and suicide, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Deaths from Alzheimer's actually jumped 15.7%, while accidental deaths increased by 6.7%, per the BBC. "When you see increases in so many of the leading causes of death, it's difficult to pinpoint one particular cause as the culprit," says an NCHS rep. Officials suggest obesity is responsible for more heart-related deaths, economic factors responsible for the increase in suicides, and drug overdoses tied to more accidental deaths. But it's too early to determine if 2015 marks the start of a trend. "We'll have to see what happens in the second half of 2016," the rep says. There is some good news: The death rate for cancer fell 1.7%. However, death rates rose 1.6% for white women, 1% for white men, and 0.9% for black men. (Here's why white people are dying earlier.)