Why has life expectancy in France taken a historic drop?

New figures show that France's life expectancy has taken a drop, after the country was plagued by extreme weather and a vicious flu virus.

Why has life expectancy in France taken a historic drop?
An elderly man feeding birds in a Paris park. Photo: photonquantique/Flickr
The typical Frenchman will live to be 78.9 years old, while French women live to 85, according to fresh figures from national statistics office INSEE.
While this may be a healthy longevity compared to many other countries, France's figures took a considerable dip in 2015. 
The average age of death was down 0.4 years for men and 0.3 years for women, compared to 2014. 
France also recorded an extra 41,000 deaths compared to in 2014, and 19,000 fewer births, meaning the average French woman gives birth to 1.96 children, after a previous average of over two. 
The difference between birth rate and death rate, as a result, was the lowest it had been since 1976. The graph below shows France's total number of births (in green) and deaths (in pink), both measured in the thousands, since 1957.
Graph: Insee
Despite the dip in births, Insee noted that the birth rate remained the primary cause of population growth, “much more so than migration”.
With over 600,000 people passing away last year, it was the most fatal year for France since the second world war. 
Experts at Insee explained that 2015 was more of a “one-off” than a trend to be worried about, explaining the higher number of deaths by a huge influenza virus that ravaged France through the first three months of the year, claiming the lives of many over 65s. 
The epidemic saw an emergency services forced into overdrive as thousands of patients waited on stretchers until beds became available.
Insee also noted that the heatwave in July was likely responsible for many of the month's extra 2,000 deaths compared to the same month in 2014. The heatwave was a record breaker in some parts of the country for the time of the year, and even in the capital temperatures almost hit 40C.
The stats office said that a strong winter chill in October was likely the prime culprit behind the additional 4,000 deaths compared to October 2014. 
Tuesday's figures also revealed that France's population currently sits at 66.6 million, with 2.1 million of these living in France's overseas territories, a total increase of around 240,000. 
It also found that France can boast an ever-growing number of centenarians. There were only 3,760 in 1990, compared with around 20,500 today. 

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