By Chris Adams

The director of the National Institute on Aging – the premiere federal premiere center for research on the health of older people – said recent trends on longevity and mortality are disturbing.

Dr. Richard Hodes talked about one of the most startling mortality findings of recent years: the fact that certain groups of whites have lost ground compared with other groups.

What the numbers show: From 1970 to 2013, mortality rates for those between age 45 and age 54 decreased by 44 percent. But deaths by all causes for middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women increased in the U.S. from 1999 to 2013 – a trend that was unique to the U.S. Among the causes are increases in drug and alcohol poisonings, as well as suicides; chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis may contribute to the trend.

There are also discouraging trends by income groups, he said. In fact, life expectancy is falling for the poor but rising for the rich. “The poorest 10 percent haven’t gained a thing,” he said, showing the expanding life gap between rich and poor. “And for women, it’s more extreme.”

Hodes, whose institute is part of the National Institutes of Health, discussed the top causes of death in the U.S., as well as research into how the medical community might mitigate or cure heart and other diseases. He talked about specific clinical trials funded by the institute that are, for example, studying acceptable blood pressure levels.

The institute has a range of resources for journalists and health consumers, including data on the research funded by the National Institute on Aging; data on aging and health; and the Go4Life program that seeks to give consumers clear information on exercise, diet and other strategies that can help improve their lives.