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Why Are So Many Americans Dying Young?

A new pair of studies show why—and where—American life expectancy has grown worse in a generation.

For the first time since the 1990s, Americans are dying at a faster rate, and they’re dying younger. A pair of new studies suggest Americans are sicker than people in other rich countries, and in some states, progress on stemming the tide of basic diseases like diabetes has stalled or even reversed. The studies suggest so-called “despair deaths”—alcoholism, drugs, and suicide—are a big part of the problem, but so is obesity, poverty, and social isolation.

American life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year since 2014, from 78.9 to 78.8, according to a report released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics. As The Washington Post reported, the last time the life expectancy went down instead of up was in 1993, during the throes of the AIDS epidemic. Meanwhile, the number of years people are expected to live at 65 remained unchanged, suggesting people are falling ill and dying young.

The overall death rate rose by 1.2 percent in 2015, the first time since 1999. The death rates went up for white men and women and for black men, but did not change significantly for Hispanics or black women.

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