The historical trend in health and mortality in the United States has mostly been a story of health improvements, medical triumphs, and longer lives. For example, in 1950 the death rate per 100,000 Americans was 1,446. By 2014 the rate had fallen to exactly half that—to 723.
But that seems to be changing. The preliminary 2015 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a bump up to 729.5. It’s the first time in a decade that the mortality rate actually rose.
Experts said the current rise was surprising.
“We are not accustomed to seeing death rates increase on a national scale,” said Andrew Fenelon, a researcher at the C.D.C. who did not work on the paper. “We’ve seen increases in mortality for some groups, but it is quite rare to see it for the whole population.”
He added that it would drag the United States further behind its European peers: “Many countries in Europe are witnessing declines in mortality, so the gap between the U.S. and other countries is growing.”
If these preliminary numbers are confirmed, then the end of the downward trend in the mortality rate is an indicator of much larger problems—not only in the healthcare system, but in the wider society.