death rate

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the fundamental ways scientists measure the well-being of a nation is tracking the rate at which its citizens die and how long they can be expected to live.

So the news out of the federal government Thursday is disturbing: The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade, according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65.

Infectious diseases are no longer the major killers in the U.S. that they once were, but they still surprise us.

According to a report published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, deaths from infectious disease accounted for 5.4 percent of deaths from 1980 to 2014.