American Life-Expectancy falls short of other countries

United States Life Expectancy Way Below European Countries Due To Guns, Cars, And Drugs, Study Finds

United States life expectancy is way lower than other countries, a study says. It’s largely due to gun, drug, and car deaths, but which one of the three is the biggest contributor to the trend?

It’s tough to pin down which one breaks away from the pack, but they did find that these three causes of death were responsible for 48 percent of the gap in average life expectancy of men between the United States and similar countries, taking about a year off their lives in the United States.

Surprisingly for women, these same causes of death accounted for only 19 percent of the discrepancy, costing them half a year of life. CNN reports that the life expectancy study was published on Tuesday in the Journal of American Medical Association.

“The idea that Americans live several years shorter than we would expect them to, given the level of development, is sort of already known, but every time I come across that number it seems staggering that we get two fewer years of life just for living here,” said Andrew Fenelon, a senior author of the study.

“I was really surprised at just how large the contribution is” of these three causes of death,” Fenelon said.

But how much of a gap is there for the life expectancy of the United States as compared to other countries?

The research found that Americans live 2.2 years less than residents in similar countries, which is a pretty long time. Furthermore, American women are only projected to live until 81.2 years of age, while men are projected to live until they’re 76.4-years-old. Those numbers aren’t horrible, but men and women abroad are expected to live until they’re 78.6 and 83.4-years-old, which is much higher than the United States’ life-expectancy.

The other countries involved in the average life-expectancy study are Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Fenelon was quick to note that the findings really only impact a certain age group.

“From my experience the largest gaps are between 25 and 65, so this prime middle-age adulthood,” he said.

It makes sense that car crashes might impact that age group more, as we’re constantly travelling. But does this research suggest that United States citizens are more violent? The three contributing factors are gun, drug, and car deaths. Other countries have to deal with these problems too, so does this say something about America as a whole?

“Our rates of drug poisoning and all of these external causes (of death) are so much more than other countries,” said Ellen Meara, an associate professor of health policy at Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy.

“If you go back far enough in the 1980s, we compared much more favorably in life expectancy with other countries, and gradually over time they improved more than the U.S.,” Meara said. “We have to look to see what we are doing or have been doing differently since the 1980s — it’s not like we can’t achieve what other countries have.”

Meara suggests something has changed since the 1980s. There isn’t really an answer for why our death rates are higher than other countries.

The Washington Post reports that the average life-expectancy study suggests we should focus on forming policies to reduce injuries, not just give money to traditional health spending.

[Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]