In 2015, the U.S. death rate rose for the first time in more than a decade.
This comes according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rather alarmingly, it showed that the increase was driven by a combination of more people dying from overdoses, suicide and Alzheimer's disease.
The increase is said to have hit certain groups particularly acutely, such as white middle-aged citizens.
While federal researchers said it is too early to tell whether last year's data is a portent of the near future or a one-off year, they say it could signal distress at the national level if it continues, The New York Times reports.
However, there are reportedly other trends shown from data in the report which reveal a more optimistic picture for younger generations' health prospects.
The mortality rate for children declined by 52 deaths per 100,000 children between 1990 and 2010, according to Science Mag. Death rates fell most quickly for children living in the poorest parts of the nation.
Economic inequality has long been associated with diverging public health outcomes for wealthy and poor Americans, but it has never been a static relationship. This is especially borne out by the new data, which shows that the gaps between the public health outcomes of rich and poor children are narrowing even as the gap between the lifespans of rich and poor American adults is widening.
The factors driving are largely unknown. Princeton economics professor Janet Currie suggests that public health interventions, such as the expansion of the Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs in the early 1990s, played a role in leading to less infant mortality and fewer hospitalizations as children grew older.
Other factors, such as sharply reduced smoking rates among all income groups in the country, have also played a role. Other sources of air pollution which tend to disproportionately affect the development of poor children have also declined.
There are things to worry about, of course. Obesity rates among children and young adults are far higher today than in the previous generation, which can put children at a higher risk for heart disease and other ailments.