The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)  released their annual report this past week, showing that the average life expectancy from birth for American men and women has dropped from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 years in 2015. On the whole, women are still outliving men, however, average life expectancy dropped from 76.5 to 76.3 years for men and from 81.3 to 81.2 for women. Though the numbers don’t seem huge, this is the first drop in more than 20 years. And at the same time, the overall death rate went up 1.2 percent in 2015.

susan-mcquillanSusan McQuillan, M.S., RDN, is a food, health, and lifestyle writer in New York City. She received her Bachelor’s degree from New York University and her Master’s degree from Hunter College. She has published hundreds of articles about food, nutrition, lifestyle, and preventative health care, and written several books, including Breaking the Bonds of Food Addiction, Low-Calorie Dieting for Dummies,and Sesame Street’s C is for Cooking, B is for Baking, and Let’s Cook. 

Editor: Nadeem Pasha

So, how did we lose approximately one month of our lives? NCHS experts suggest the loss is due to an overall 1.2% increase in death rate from 2014 to 2015, which translates to more than 86,000 additional deaths. These deaths were attributable to increases in eight of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. These include heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide. The death rate for cancer went down by 1.7%, and death from flu and pneumonia remained statistically the same from 2014 to 2015.


It’s too soon to call it a trend, and there could be a life-affirming upward swing by the time next year’s report comes out. But these statistics, culled from death certificates filed in all 50 states, serve as a reminder to check your diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and other lifestyle habits that help determine your state of health. And with a new year approaching, it’s also a good time to check in for an annual exam with your primary care physician.

The good news for both men and women is, if you live to be 65 years old, your life expectancy at that point has not changed. The average life expectancy for both sexes at age 65 is an additional 19.4 years. For women, the average is 20.6 years; for men, 18 years.