U.S. Trails 41 Other Countries in Life Expectancy Rates
Life expectancy in the U.S. has reached its highest point ever, but it is exceeded by the rates in 41 other countries, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports.
The U.S. has been slipping for decades in international rankings of life expectancies as other countries are improving health care, nutrition and lifestyles, according to the AP/Daily Star.
Countries that rank above the U.S. include Japan, most of Europe, Jordan and the Cayman Islands.
A U.S. resident born in 2004 has a life expectancy of 77.9 years, placing the U.S. in 42nd place, down from 11th place two decades ago.
Researchers say the lower U.S. ranking is attributed to the high uninsured rate among the population, in addition to rising obesity rates and racial disparities in life expectancy. Black U.S. residents have a shorter life span, at 73.3 years, than whites.
The U.S. also has a high infant mortality rate compared with other industrialized nations, with 40 countries having lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. in 2004.
The country with the longest life expectancy is Andorra at 83.5 years. Swaziland is last at 34.1 years, attributed to sub-Saharan Africa's high rate of HIV and AIDS, as well as famine and civil strife.
Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said, "Something's wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries."
According to Murray, improving access to health insurance could increase life expectancy, but predicted that the U.S. ranking would not improve as long as the health care debate focuses on insurance. Murray said policymakers must direct their efforts to reducing cancer, heart disease and lung disease. Murray supports additional efforts to reduce tobacco use, control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University, said, "It's not as simple as saying we don't have national health insurance. It's not that easy."
Paul Terry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory University, said, "The U.S. has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy," adding, "We have the luxury of choosing a bad lifestyle as opposed to having one imposed on us by hard times" (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 8/12).