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Health: Life expectancy dips for white women, suicide rates rise in United States

Mike Stobbe
AP Medical Writer
Women run as the sun sets in San Diego. Life expectancy for white women has fallen a little, according to a new government report. The dip is small — white women lost about five weeks from their predicted lifespan in 2014, compared to 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.
AP photo | AP

NEW YORK — Life expectancy for white women has fallen a little and middle-aged white people now account for a third of all suicides in the United States, according to a new government report.

Losing time

White women lost about five weeks from their predicted lifespan in 2014, compared to 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.



Life expectancy held steady for black women and white men and increased for black men, Hispanic men and Hispanic women.

The CDC previously reported that the life expectancy for all Americans born in 2014 was 78 years and 9½ months — the same prediction made for the previous two years.



Wednesday’s report gives a breakdown by race or gender. It predicts that a white girl born in 2014 could expect to live about 81 years and 1 month, about five weeks fewer than the previous year’s prediction.

The last time there was a one-year drop for white women was in 2008. That was considered a statistical blip, said Robert Anderson of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

That could also be the case for the 2014 decline “or it could be a harbinger of things to come,” Anderson said. That won’t be known until data from more years come in, he added.



Some recent reports have shown rising suicide and drug overdose death rates for white women — particularly middle-aged ones.

U.S. health officials come up with life expectancy figures each year by looking at how old people were when they died and the cause of death. They use statistical modeling to predict how long people born today will live if current trends continue.

Hispanics had the highest life expectancy in 2014 — at 84 for Hispanic women and more than 79 for men. Black Americans were lowest, at about 78 for women about and 72 for men. For white men, it was 76½ years.

Life expectancies generally have been climbing, but they do sometimes dip. The estimates for white men and Hispanic women dropped slightly in 2013.

Suicide rates rise

Middle-aged white people now account for a third of all suicides in the United States, a new government report shows.

Suicide is the nation’s 10th leading cause of death, and the overall rate rose 24 percent in 15 years, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicides have long been most common among white people — particularly older white males. But most striking in the new report is the growth in whites ages 45 to 64.

They were a third of suicide deaths in 2014, up from about a quarter in 1999.

“The findings in this report are extremely concerning,” said Nadine Kaslow, an Emory University researcher and past president of the American Psychological Association.

The CDC data — released Friday — provides a detailed look at the latest year’s suicide statistics, and a broader look at how much the situation has changed over 15 years.

There were nearly 43,000 U.S. suicides in 2014. More than 14,000 of them were middle-aged whites — twice the combined total for all blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

In other terms — a group that represents 18 percent of the U.S. population accounted for 33 percent of the suicides.

The CDC also reported striking increases in suicide rates in adult American Indians and Alaska Natives, although the number of those suicide deaths is much smaller.

The report doesn’t try to answer why certain trends are occurring. Other experts have speculated that middle age can be a particularly hard time for whites, who — compared to some other racial and ethnic groups — commonly don’t have as many supportive relationships with friends, family, or religious communities,

Money was a factor, too, they say. The economy was in recession from the end of 2007 until mid-2009. Even well afterward, polls showed most Americans remained worried about weak hiring, a depressed housing market and other problems.

White people, in particular, seem to expect financial comfort and happiness by middle age — and have difficulty coping when things get worse instead of better, Emory’s Kaslow said.

In a report earlier this week, the CDC found that life expectancy for white women — and for white people as a whole — declined slightly in 2014. Some experts have said a combination of factors may be the reason, including more drug overdoses and suicides.


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