More Americans are dying, a new federal report has shown. A first after so many years, the total death rate in the United States surged in 2015.
According to initial data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the death rate surged to 730 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015 from just 723 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014. NCHS is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At present, the reasons for the increased death rate remain unclear. Experts still require a thorough analysis of the data before they can pinpoint the areas and demographics of the surge.
In the report, the NCHS listed several reported causes of deaths during the observed increase between 2014 and 2015. These conditions included chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, Alzheimer's disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, Parkinson's disease, hypertension and septicemia.
Drug overdose, homicide, suicide, unintentional injury and firearm-related injury were also part of the observed death causes.
All of these conditions were seen in both age-adjusted and crude death rates. On the bright side, the NCHS report found a reduced cancer-related death rate.
"There's no smoking gun here. It's something that we're going to be looking into and watching to see if it holds for 2016. It could be that it's just a blip as it was 10 years ago," said Farida Ahmad, NCHS' mortality surveillance lead.
Ahmad called the recent death rate increase "unusual" and noted that it's the first time the rates went up since the surge in 2004 and 2005.
"It's an uptick in mortality and that doesn't usually happen, so it's significant. But the question is, what does it mean? We really need more data to know. If we start looking at 2016 and we see another rise, we'll be a lot more concerned," said Robert Anderson, NCHS' chief of mortality statistics.
By December, the CDC will have the final numbers for the report. While a one-year increase doesn't mean there's a trend, the NCHS report's initial numbers are complementing recent studies which suggested that the modern American lifestyle could be contributing to early death.