PAA Congressional Briefing Explores Factors Affecting Life Expectancy

On April 9, the Population Association of America (PAA), a COSSA governing member, hosted a Congressional briefing entitled Grave Consequences: Why Some Americans Are No Longer Living Longer on the decline of average life expectancy among some groups in the United States. COSSA was a co-sponsor of the event.

Andrew Fenelon, researcher at the University of Maryland, spoke about the regional divergence in adult mortality. The Central South has a higher mortality rate than the rest of the country and has gotten worse over time, while the East Coast has shown significant improvements. Shannon Mannat, researcher at Syracuse University, presented on the significant increase in “deaths of despair,” which are deaths caused by drug overdose or suicide. However, she emphasized that we must focus on underlying factors that lead to opioid abuse, including economic insecurity and isolation from family and communities. The final panelist was John Haaga, Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), who presented NIA research initiatives related to life expectancy, including behavioral and social research projects.

All the panelists acknowledged that improving Americans’ health must be a collaborative effort that includes reducing economic insecurity, fighting the opioid epidemic, improving community connectedness, and increased social science research. Andrew Fenelon stated, “Any policy, even if not directly related to health, is going to have health implications.”

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Dakota Leonard of Arizona State University.

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