Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Americans will continue to lengthen their lifespans in the coming decades, albeit at a slower rate, with average life expectancy stretching by more than six years by 2060, the U.S. Census reported Friday.
The numbers also showed that Americans age 65 or older will make up 23 percent of the population by then.
Using life expectancy data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Census officials predicted life expectancy for the total U.S. population would increase from the 2017 average of 79.7 years to an all-time high of 85.6 years over the next 40 years.
That rate of increase -- 6.1 years over a 40-year span -- is slow by recent American standards. Average life expectancy, for example, jumped three years during the 1970s alone, largely due to successes in fighting infectious diseases and promotion of healthier lifestyles.
"Slower gains to life expectancy may have resulted from stalled progress in treating the leading causes of death and other degenerative diseases," Census officials said. "Moreover, the prevalence of preventable health risk -- such as smoking, obesity and, more recently, opioid-related overdoses -- hinders overall population health and contributes to slowed gains in life expectancy."
Due to the slowdown, the United States -- which had the 20th highest life expectancy in the world in 1960 -- is projected to drop to 43rd.
The report also found that increases in life expectancy are projected to be larger for men than women, although women on average are still expected to live longer than men. Men are projected to live 6.6 years longer (to 83.9 years old) by 2060, which women will gain only 5.3 years (to 87.3).
By 2034, the report said, people age 65 and older are projected to outnumber children under age 18, and by 2060, nearly one-quarter of Americans will be at least 65.
"The combination of rising life expectancy and an aging population will likely change demands for healthcare,social services and caregiving in the United States," the authors said.