U.S. Life Expectancy Shorter Than 41 Countries

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the life expectancy in the U.S. is shorter than 41 countries including most of Europe and Japan.

Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, comments that "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."

What are the likely causes?

- High prevalence of obesity in the U.S.
- Racial disparities
- Relatively high infant mortality rate
- 45 million Americans lack health insurance

The life expectancy ranges from 82.6 years in Japan to 39.2 years in Swaziland - see the map. Many of the countries with the lowest life expectancies, e.g. Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, Central African Republic, and Namibia, are suffering from very high rates of HIV/AIDS infection, with adult prevalence rates ranging from 10 to 38 percent (source: Wikipedia).

Life Expectancy Falls In Pockets of U.S. WSJ Health Blog. In the the animation, greener equals longer life expectancy.

A color-coded map of the world’s most and least emotional countries http://bit.ly/Ytxx6B
U.S. life span shorter. Associated Press, 08/2007.
List of countries by life expectancy, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
World’s Best Medical Care? NYTimes, 08/2007.
U.S. life expectancy lags behind other countries'. CNN.
Image source: Wikipedia, GNU Free Documentation License.
How low can you go? Megan McArdle, 08/2007.
Life Expectancy Falls In Pockets of U.S. WSJ Health Blog, 04/2008.

1 comment:

  1. Additonal causes for US life expectancy being less than major European nations and Japan:

    More deaths and lifespan reducing injuries from military service.

    Much higher usage of guns and resulting deaths and injuries.

    Higher automotive related injury and deaths.

    Much higher percentage of population incarcerated.

    Higher immigration from countries with lower life expectancy.

    Lower US abortion rates affect infant mortality.

    Finally, it is interesting to note the correlation between latitude and life expectancy. The countries that rank higher than the US are almost all at latitudes higher than most of the US population, while if you break the US life expectancy statistics down state by state, you'll find again a significant north over south advantage (exclude Florida which is disproportionately populated by retirees migrating from the north).

    Conceivably there is a difference is sun exposure, or perhaps colder climates keep people indoors and at home in winter and less exposed to automotive deaths or violent deaths as in the southern US. Or there may be cultural factors such as fundamentalist religious beliefs, that affect this.

    I don't know of any nationwide epidemiological work that has catalogued the factors and done multivariate regression work on them to assess the causal hypotheses. It seems like an awfully worthwhile project but a daunting one, and the obesity factor is an astonishingly rapidly moving target that is hard to capture. If anyone has a link to something like that, please post.