This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Life Expectancy at Birth Takes a Hit in the US

Life expectancy in the United States is already the lowest among the rich nations of the world, despite the highest per person cost in the world. More bad news came out this week from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS--part of the Centers for Disease Control): life expectancy at birth dropped between 2014 and 2015. To be fair, the drop was minuscule, but a decline is still going in the wrong direction. The media, such as the Washington Post, emphasized that this was the first drop since 1993. I admit that I didn't remember that drop, but a little investigation revealed that it was due to deaths from HIV reaching their peak among men aged 25-44.

The latest increase appears to have multiple causes. First, we have the increase in opioid-related deaths, already identified by Anne Case and Angus Deaton at Princeton. Then there is the continuing increase in obesity and diabetes in the United States that is especially troublesome prior to old age. This is noteworthy because the report from the NCHS shows that life expectancy held steady at ages 65 and older. It is the younger ages that are driving the decline. And, on that note, we need a hat tip to Beth Jarosz, who tweeted out that the infant mortality rose between 2014 and 2015, although the media tended to ignore that bit of important information.

I saw today that the most-read article this year from "The Nation's Health", published online by the American Public Health Association, was the story about where U.S. states rank in terms of health. That story, while generally positive about health in the U.S., also pointed out the dilemma of obesity and diabetes. Put another way, we need a medical model that emphasizes prevention, rather than just expensive treatment. So, next time someone asks if we need health care reform, the answer is yes, and in a big way.

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