For much time in the United States, children were expected to outlive their parents-but new studies reveal that may change as life expectancy in the US has significantly decreased in the last two decades, specifically for the least-educated whites in the country.
Studies in recent years have identified meager decreases in the US life expectancy, which conflicts with the notion that the nation’s population was gaining years in its’ lifetime expectancy, The New York Timesreports.
A new study released last month by Health Affairs revealed a sharp decline in the life expectancy for Americans without a high school diploma, especially whites.
Why such a sharp decline remains unanswered, though researchers propose factors like the increase in prescription drug overdose, obesity and the lack of health care for the least educated.
Most significant was the decline in lifetime expectancy for white women without a high school diploma, which from 1990 until 2008, lost five years of their life expectancy. White men with the same educational level lost three years, S. Jay Olshansky, lead investigator of the study and a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago told The New York Times.
Such a sharp decline contends with the post-Soviet decline of seven-years in life expectancy for Russian men.
Head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, John G. Haaga spoke with The New York Times:
“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling.”
White women without a high school diploma can expect to live 73.5 years, compared to 83.9 years for women with at least a college degree. The least- educated white men have a life expectancy of 67.5 years, where men with a college degree or more can expect to live 80.4 years.
In international life expectancy ratings, white women fell to 41st in 2010, from 14th in 1985, in the United Nations ranking.