In the 1980’s, Americans had the same life expectancy as those in similarly situated nations, but that picture has changed, and there is now a “life expectancy gap” rising in the U.S.

With the rise in deaths from stroke, diabetes, heart disease, drug overdose, accidents and other health issues, a troubling new study confirms that the US has seen a decline in the average life expectancy for the first time in two years compared to other developed nations.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently compared its 2012 numbers for death rates in America with those of the United Kingdom, Japan and 10 other developed European nations to find that, on average, Americans lives have declined by about two years than their European counterparts.

The statistics reported affected both sexes and all ages.  In 2015, the overall death rate rose 1.2 percent, and more than 2.7 million people died with 45% linked to heart disease and cancer. Other listed reasons were chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes, Influenza, Pneumonia, Kidney Disease, and suicide. It is of serious concern that the leading causes of death have all increased, as opposed to a single cause. Alzheimer’s disease was the largest rate increase that went from 25.4 to 29.4 deaths per 100,000 people. The majority affected in the overall death rate were white men, white women and black men.

Life expectancy for American men and women now sits at 76.4 years and 81.2 years, respectively, compared to 78.6 years for men and 83.4 years for women in the contrasted countries, with middle-aged Americans between the ages of 25 and 65 comprising the biggest demographic in the life expectancy gap.

The leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease.  In the year 2015, there were 633,000 deaths which was an increase from 614,000 the year prior for this disease.  Another factor that plays a part in heart disease is obesity.  The obesity rates have continued to escalate which contributes to the rise in most health conditions and concerns. While cancer was to blame for almost 595,000 deaths in 2015, there was a decrease in that cause of death due to diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

For Americans between the ages of 1 and 44, injuries are the leading cause of death, with gun injuries, drug poisonings and auto accidents accounting for the vast majority.  Unintentional injuries caused by automobile accidents, drug and alcohol overdoses and other accidents have risen from 136,000 in 2014 to 146,000 in 2015.

There has been an overwhelming epidemic of opioid, fentanyl, prescription drugs and heroin overdose deaths in the last few years. Investigators believe opioid abuse lies at the heart of the drug poisonings, suicides, homicides, gun-related deaths and vehicular accidents.

Also, previous studies have shown the death rate for white, middle-aged Americans has been rising since 1999, primarily because of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.

Experts have studied our socioeconomic conditions, health care, geography and culture of life expectancy.  There isn’t one single problem or solution, we as a nation can make a difference by changing our dietary habits, scheduling wellness check-ups, using prevention measures, and receiving early treatment.

The economic distress, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide are more prevalent now than a few years ago.  These findings are disturbing and a major cause of concern.  Also, income inequality, unemployment, depression, nutritional differences and crime in the communities continue to be a factor in the life expectancy decline.

A good place to start would be to bring education and awareness to the groups who are at high risk for heart disease and all the other health conditions.  By offering support and education to these communities, we are giving them the tools that they need to avoid these detrimental issues in the future.

America compared much more favorably in the life expectancy gap 25 years ago, and it would be beneficial to look at the differences in our choices we’ve made collectively and what we can do to change the future.