Cancer research is progressing, medical technology is constantly improving, and new knowledge about disease is being produced each day. As the world of healthcare continues to revolutionize, it seems that average life expectancy should increase at the same rate. However, this is not the case. According to recent reports, the U.S. death rate rose 1.2% from 2014 to 2015. This may seem like a small number at first, but broken down, this means 86,212 more U.S. citizens died in 2015 than in 2014—a statistic that is much more difficult to grapple with. Just as well, it is important to note that out of all U.S. citizens, the newest generations have the lowest life expectancy. So why is it that the U.S., a global leader who has seen success in so many other areas, is now ranked 49th out of 52 industrialized countries for life expectancy?
The following is a list of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S:
1. Heart disease
3. Chronic lower respiratory disease
4. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
6. Alzheimer's disease
8. Influenza and pneumonia
9. Kidney disease
The rates for most of these causes of death have increased in the past two years. Making matters worse, these rising rates are accompanied by rising healthcare costs, which only add to the stress of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So the question presents itself—is the U.S. healthcare system to blame for these increasing death rates, or are there other factors we’re missing?
In a study conducted by HealthAffairs.org, it is hypothesized that the U.S. healthcare system is indeed to blame for our nation’s deteriorating health. This is primarily due to the fact that, as health spending rises, so does the number of people without health insurance. Just as well, increased health spending diverts federal money from public health, education, public safety, and community development programs—all important aspects of a country’s survival rates. The researchers in this study suggest that, in order to both save money and save lives, meaningful healthcare reform is necessary.
However, regardless the state of the U.S. healthcare system, there are still many ways we can take our health outcomes into our own hands. One such example is the prevention of obesity. Of all high income countries, the U.S. has the highest obesity rates, with over one third of the population being obese. What’s worse, this rate is projected to rise to 50% by 2030. Since obesity is a leading predictor of deadly diseases such as cancer and heart disease, it is imperative to take preventative measures such as daily exercise and healthy eating. It is especially important to instill healthy habits in young children, as changing health patterns throughout generations is the only way to efficiently resolve our nation’s health.
Another rising cause of death in the U.S. is suicide. Every year, 30,000 people die of suicide in the U.S. out of 650,000 attempts—outnumbering the number of yearly homicides 3 to 2. The highest predictors of suicide are depression and alcoholism. Suicide rates are also commonly correlated with social, political, cultural and economic forces. With this in mind, it is important to note that the best way to prevent suicide is social support. In other words, those who have close relationships are less likely to succumb to stresses like job loss, illness, or bereavement. If you or someone you know seems to be isolating themselves or acting strangely, do not hesitate to ask for or offer help.
As the rates for causes of death such as suicide and obesity continue to rise in the U.S., it is now more important than ever to learn more about how to avoid these risks. Even if the modern healthcare system is to blame, it is still up to U.S. citizens as individuals to take responsibility for their health and well-being. If we take the initiative to learn more about the diseases that are killing us at a quickening rate, we will have the ability to stop them in their tracks. The greatest form of disease prevention is knowledge, so do not hesitate to become the catalyst that sparks your individual journey to healthy living.