Life expectancy decline: Have young Americans lost hope amid plenty?

It’s been a given since America began industrializing in the mid-1800s that each generation would live longer than the one that came before. Since 2014, however, an alarming reversal has taken place, with life expectancy slipping each year. How can that be?

The release of the U.S. mortality data has typically been a humdrum affair, with little notice by the major media. Not now. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their data for 2017. The average American can expect to live to 78.6 years, the CDC said, down from 78.7 years in 2016.

But that small drop is deceptive, since the decline is centered mainly in men. Women’s life expectancy has remained unchanged since 2014, while men have seen their lifespans fall from 76.5 in 2014 to 76.1 this year.

The last time such a drop happened was from 1915 to 1918. That period coincided with World War I and the deadly Spanish flu epidemic, which together claimed 792,000 American lives.

What’s happening?

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