Life expectancy in the US has not kept pace with progress in other industrialized nations and is now decreasing.
Mortality among adults aged 25-64 years in the United States has increased across racial-ethnic populations, especially in recent years, offsetting years of progress in lowering mortality rates.
Drug overdoses were the leading cause of increased mortality in midlife in each population, but mortality also increased for alcohol related conditions, suicides, and organ diseases involving multiple body systems. Although midlife mortality among whites increased across a multitude of conditions, a similar trend affected non-white populations.
According to a 2013 report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, the “US health disadvantage” began decades ago and has grown more pervasive with time. That report documented poor health in nine domains: birth outcomes, injuries and homicides, adolescent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, drug related mortality, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and disability. The report identified deep, systemic causes for the US health disadvantage involving not only deficiencies in healthcare and the prevalence of risky behaviors but also socioeconomic inequalities, unhealthy environmental conditions, and detrimental public policies.
That death rates are increasing throughout the US population for dozens of conditions signals a systemic cause and warrants prompt action by policy makers to tackle the factors responsible for declining health in the US.
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