NEW YORK — The U.S. death rate rose slightly last year — the first increase in a decade, health officials reported Wednesday.
Researchers think the increase is due to a combination of factors. The death rate from heart disease leveled off, instead of dropping like usual. Meanwhile, deaths rates for accidental injuries and stroke increased.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the numbers based on a preliminary look at 2015 death certificate.
The overall death rate rose to nearly 730 deaths per 100,000 people last year, from about 723 in 2014.
The last time the rate increased was in 2005. It also increased in 1999, 1993 and 1998.
It’s too early to say whether 2015 will be another one year blip or the start of a more lasting trend, said Farida Ahmad, a CDC researcher.
It hinges on the heart disease death rate. In the past, declines in deaths from heart disease has offset increases in other causes, she said.
“If the heart disease rate isn’t falling, there isn’t a buffer,” she said.
Ahmad stressed the 2015 data is preliminary. But said there is enough to reach a conclusion about a rise in the overall death rate.