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Top 10 causes of death: Unintentional fatalities spike

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some disturbing news regarding deaths by unintentional injury and U.S. life expectancy. 

For the first time since 1993, life expectancy for the U.S. population decreased to 78.8 years in 2015, a drop of 0.1 year from 2014. The overall death rate increased 1.2% from 2015 to 2014.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2015 remained the same as in 2014. However, death rates increased for eight of the causes:

  1. heart disease (+0.9%)
  2. cancer (the only rate to decrease, -1.7%)
  3. chronic lower respiratory diseases (+2.7%)
  4. unintentional injuries (+6.7%)
  5. stroke (+3.0%)
  6. Alzheimer’s disease (+15.7%)
  7. diabetes (+1.9%)
  8. influenza and pneumonia (no significant change)
  9. kidney disease (+1.5%), and
  10. suicide (+2.3%)

Improvements in death rates had been small for the past five years.

There were 86,212 more U.S. deaths in 2015 than in 2014.

Some reasons for the changes:

  • The drop in the cancer death rate was probably due to fewer people smoking, earlier detection of the disease and new treatments.
  • The largest jump in the ten categories for Alzheimer’s disease is partially due to better reporting of the disease as a cause of death.
  • The epidemic of overdoses from prescription narcotics contributed to the number of unintentional injuries, which rose from slightly more than 136,000 in 2014 to more than 146,000 in 2015.

Occupational and motor vehicle deaths are also included in the unintentional injury category.

“This is unusual, and we don’t know what happened,” said Jiaquan Xu, the epidemiologist who is the lead author of the study.

Other Western countries aren’t seeing similar rises in death rates. Several experts told The Washington Post that the spike in the U.S. creates urgency to find out why it’s happening here.

Just a year ago, research from Princeton University showed an unexpected jump in mortality rates among white middle-age Americans, mostly due to what are called diseases of despair: overdoses, alcoholism and suicide.

Anne Case, a co-author of the Princeton report, told The Post, “I think we should be very concerned. This is singular. This doesn’t happen.”

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