Americans are not getting any older, literally. Life expectancy in the United States has stagnated and falls behind several other countries, in several cases by five years or more.
Life expectancy has greatly increased in modern times thanks to advances in medical technology, better health care and better sanitation. Since 1930 Americans have gained two decades of life but those increases happened early on in the century. Since that early spike in life expectancy, gains have been modest at best. Not only are Americans not living longer, economic status has a large impact on how long a person will live.
The study was led by Justin Denney, PhD, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University. Researchers collected data from the Human Mortality Database for 1930-2000 to predict future life expectancy in 2055. Based on this research, not only has life expectancy stagnated in America, it trails several developed countries.
For an American born today, life expectancy is around 78.49 years of age. Compared to countries with the highest life expectancies, Americans may be missing out on five to 10 years of life. Monaco has the highest life expectancy at 89.68 years while Macau at 84.43 and Japan at 83.91 are close behind. Imagine getting an extra decade to experience life and that's what many Americans are missing out on.
Much of the growth in American life expectancy occurred during the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. Since then life expectancy growth has been relatively modest. A lot of the reason for the poor rate of growth for life expectancy has been due to the rise of chronic disease. Obesity, cardiovascular disease, COPD and lung cancer are all factors in limiting American life expectancy.
Also of concern according to researchers is the life expectancy gap between the very rich and very poor. The poorest Americans may live around five years less than the wealthiest Americans. The researchers do point out that the richest Americans are still not living like Monegasques.
Even though many American are able to pay for a lot of healthcare, life expectancy has not increased. Current state of affairs is important to address but equally as important is the future of America, note researchers. Taking into consideration the future, more public heath efforts are needed to improve the general health of Americans. This could include current attempts to help curb the obesity epidemic, reduce the number of smokers and getting more people to live more active lives.
The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Social Science Quarterly.