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US Falls to 37th In Lifespan Expectancy

US Falls to 37th In Lifespan Expectancy

A baby girl born in 2007 in the United States can expect to live til she’s 80.

A baby girl born in Japan in 2007, in contrast, can expect to live to 86.

The truth is the United States is nowhere near the top of the list in life expectancy, despite spending the most money on health care per capita in the industrialized world.

Why the discrepancy? 

That’s the question raised yesterday by a National Research Council study which shows life expectancy in the US increasing much more slowly than that of Japan, France, Canada and many other industrialized countries.

Researchers found several factors working against Americans.  The biggest factor was smoking, which America embraced in the mid-to-late 20th century. While smoking rates have declined and many former smokers gave up the habit decades ago, this group is still vulnerable to a variety of cancers and other diseases. 

Another factor is is obesity, as high fat diets and sedentary lifestyles catch up to aging bodies. Yet another possible factor is lack of a comprehensive primary health care system for all, although this levels out after age 65 due to Medicare. 

Other possible contributors include relative strength or weakness of individuals’ social networks, the possible negative effects of hormone therapy for women, and the inequality in socioeconomic standards

There is good news on the horizon, however. Since smoking levels have dropped in the last several decades, the impact of previous smoking habits on health should be felt less and less. However, obesity continues to rise, and may pose a greater threat to life expectancies than even smoking once did. 

It remains to be seen what impact universal health care will have on these numbers – at the very least, the presence of a primary health care system may help catch curable diseases that may be missed under the current system. 

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Photo credit: Boris Bartels via Flickr

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8:15AM PDT on May 3, 2011


2:37AM PST on Feb 11, 2011

Thank you for posting.

10:07AM PST on Feb 4, 2011

"push people towards cheaper junk food"

Junk food is not cheaper!!

4:09PM PST on Feb 1, 2011

I can believe it. Soaring healthcare costs, rising food prices that push people towards cheaper junk food, poverty, economic worries, high stress are ingredients for disaster and in this case it's lower life expectancy, high rates of illness and early death. Awful!

1:11PM PST on Feb 1, 2011

you are what you eat...

7:32AM PST on Jan 31, 2011

Eating well and drinking lots of water along with activity surely helps!

5:58AM PST on Jan 31, 2011

Taking care of your own health is indeed challenging but very worthwhile as it keeps you out of the doctors office. I think that vitamins and other food supplements should be tax free.

11:09PM PST on Jan 30, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:55PM PST on Jan 30, 2011

It's (almost) all in the food!

1:16PM PST on Jan 30, 2011

And the fact that most Americans beyond their mid 40s are on numerous medications for things that you should do natural things to deal with instead isn't a factor? A number of these drugs have been known for decades to push people into early diabetes and cause a whole host of other issues. Perhaps we should stop treating the medical industry as if they were gods and question all the drugs they are telling people they have no choice but to take. Many of these drugs will cause you to gain weight , mess with your hormone balance and interfere with the normal process the body uses to maintain good muscle health.

Here is your future if things do not change, America medicated , even children and sick all the time. I see a future where our tax money goes not into a national health care system that we ask for but a program that just gives more money to insurance companies and drug manufacturers so they can get even richer at our expense. Why would they want is healthy when it serves them so much better to keep us on drugs?

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