Sunday, August 13, 2017 by Isabelle Z.
Until recently, the average American life expectancy has gone up. However, it now appears that the toxic lifestyle embraced by much of the country is finally catching up with people, and those life expectancy gains have come to screeching halt. This might be bad news for individuals and their loved ones, but corporations are noting sizeable savings in the form of pension costs. After all, if employees die younger, a firm won’t have to pay them a pension or other lifelong retirement benefits for as many years.
After the American death rate increased for the first time since 1999 two years ago, at least a dozen major corporations have been able to reduce estimates for the amount of money they might owe retirees by more than $9.7 billion combined. Lockheed Martin alone was able to adjust its estimates regarding retirement obligations downward by $1.6 billion in 2015 and 2016, and firms like Verizon and General Motors are also reaping the benefits. This is based on an analysis carried out by Bloomberg of company filings. The American death rate is an age-adjusted share of Americans dying.
Meanwhile, a report issued in July by the social security chief actuary showed a slight improvement in its financial outlook as longevity gains failed to meet last year’s projections.
While other factors also play a role in the amount of money companies must shell out in pensions – including salary levels, health care costs, and asset returns – the notion that these firms are changing their adjustments based on the new mortality trend shows just how serious it is.
The death rates for people in the U.S. older than 50 have improved by one percent per year since 1950 on average. The long-term trend increased up to two percent in the years from 2000 to 2009 before stalling; the death rates only improved by about half a percent each year from 2010 to 2014. The life expectancy for 65-year-olds rose by a meager four months in the years from 2010 and 2015, which is half of the improvement noted in the years from 2005 to 2010. Moreover, the American death rate actually increased in 2015, and the death rate worsened for those over 65 in the first reversal for Americans of retirement age to be seen since 1999.
Experts say that it is very concerning when the life expectancy of a developed country stops improving, and it’s even worse when it drops. Urban Institute Demographer Laudan Aron said that this trend reflects many of the “underlying conditions of life.” He feels that this dropping trajectory, particularly in comparison to those of other wealthy nations, should be considered among the most urgent issues on our national agenda.
It’s not surprising to see these trends given the unhealthy habits of many Americans. A paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America suggested that the mortality rate for middle-aged white Americans was rising largely because of suicides and drug overdoses. Antidepressant use has also been on the rise in recent years, and antidepressants increase a person’s risk of suicide. Drug overdoses, meanwhile, have also been climbing thanks to opioid addiction, with many people starting down this deadly path thanks to prescriptions for painkillers given to them by their doctors.
Cancer is another big killer in the U.S., and the toxins found in our everyday products could be to blame. The pesticides and herbicides sprayed on our produce, for example, are carcinogens, while many of the foods found in American grocery stores are full of dangerous additives. Meanwhile, the nation’s skyrocketing obesity rate due to unhealthy food and a lack of exercise is also sending Americans to an early grave by causing heart disease and diabetes.