According to a 2016 comprehensive review of global health statistics published in The Lancet, the U.S. trails behind other wealthy nations in terms of infant mortality and life expectancy. Included in this 2015 study, part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, were 195 countries and territories where a scientific analysis was conducted of more than 300 diseases.
The U.S. is a large country with many complex reasons for a shorter life expectancy. Some of the reasons stated for the difference in this include:
· Gun violence
· Drug abuse
· High blood pressure
When compared with other developed nations, the life expectancy of both sexes is less. As of 2015, men in the U.S. have an average life expectancy of 76.7 years with about 66.8 of those years spent in good health. Women in the U.S. have a longer life expectancy of 81.5 years with 69.5 spend in good health.
These numbers lag when compared to other wealthier countries having a combined average 78.1 years of life expectancy for men and 83.4 years of life expectancy for women, with 69.5 years spent in good health.
Part of the blame of why the U.S. life expectancy falls behind, according to the review was inequality in access to health care in addition to the social and economic factors.
The authors of the study had several beliefs as to what is keeping the U.S. from seeing higher life expectancy rates:
· Drug abuse and diabetes are causing a disproportionate amount of bad health and early death
· Alcohol, smoking, and access to guns pose a threat to the citizens
· Opioid use has increased more than fivefold over the past 25 years increasing from 4,000 deaths in 1990 to more than 21,300 deaths in 2015
· More new or expectant mothers are dying compared to 25 years ago
· Heart disease still is the leading cause of death resulting in more than 532,000 citizens succumbing to it each year.
· Alzheimer’s disease, now the second leading cause of death in the U.S., had 282,530 deaths in 2015.
· The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is lung cancer which claimed 187,390 people in 2015.
One factor that the study’s authors noted that appears to be driving the disadvantage U.S. citizens face for a reduced life expectancy is the reliance on a “hospital-centric, drug-centric medical system.” As an example, more focus should emphasize encouraging and educating people with diabetes to eat a healthier diet and become more physically active to better manage their disease. Communities should plan strategic investments in public health such as making healthy food more affordable and opportunities for physical activity accessible and plentiful. These changes won’t happen overnight but with some time, effort and planning targeted on making health a priority, it can be accomplished.
The one bright spot is that life expectancy in the U.S. does continue to improve. A child born in the U.S. in 2015 can expect to live to age 79. An individual born in 1990, had a life expectancy of 75.