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. “This is a big deal,” says Philip Morgan, a demographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the new analysis. “There’s not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy,” he says. “The fact that it’s leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding.” READ MORE