November 29, 2023

Is the Double Jeopardy of Midlife and Old Age Slowing America’s Life Expectancy Growth?

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has shed light on the factors contributing to the stagnation of life expectancy in the United States since 2010. The study focused on analyzing the mortality trends among adults of working age and retirement age (above 65 years) and their relative impact on life expectancy.

Previous research has attributed the stagnation of life expectancy in the US to increased mortality among middle-aged and younger adults, primarily due to drug overdose, cardiometabolic diseases, and suicide. However, this study aimed to examine the contributions to mortality among adults of different age groups for the first time.

The researchers used statistical analyses and data from the Human Mortality Database to investigate the impact of mortality trends among working-age and older-age adults on life expectancy stagnation. They coined the term “double jeopardy” to describe the mortality trends in these two age groups.

The study calculated counterfactual death rates between 2000 and 2019 by extrapolating the average change in all-cause mortality during that period. These rates were then applied to different age groups to assess their impact on life expectancy, years of life lost (YLL), and excess deaths.

The findings revealed that if the mortality trends observed between 2000 and 2009 had continued until 2019, life expectancy at 25 years of age would have increased for both men and women. However, the stagnation in life expectancy observed post-2010 was predominantly influenced by increased mortality in the retirement-age population rather than the working-age population.

Further analysis showed that adverse trends in the age group 65-84 had a greater impact on the mortality rates of individuals above 65 years than the age group above 85. The study also found that a significant proportion of excess deaths and YLL occurred in individuals above 65 years.

The authors of the study discussed several interconnected factors that contribute to these mortality trends, including economic inequality, social isolation, and inadequate access to healthcare. They emphasized the need for comprehensive and coordinated policy interventions to address the underlying causes and determinants of these mortality trends.

In conclusion, this study highlights the double jeopardy of midlife and old age mortality as a significant factor in the stagnation of life expectancy in the US. It calls for urgent attention and policy interventions to address these trends and improve population health and well-being. Further research is needed to understand the causes of mortality and the impact of upstream factors on life expectancy.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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