Research conducted by health experts from the University of Illinois at Chicago has found the life expectancy of the least-educated white Americans has been on a sharp decline.

Lead investigator S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found, when compared to white woman of the same education level, African-American women outlived white women.

In 2008, white men who did not have a high school diploma lost three years of life, whereas Hispanics and African-Americans saw their life expectancy increase. However, it was observed Hispanics outlive both whites and African-Americans. John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, told 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."

The life expectancy for the United States goes as following:

  • For white women without a high school diploma their life expectancy was 73.5 years, compared to 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or better.
  • For the least educated white man his life expectancy was 67.5 years, compared to 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

The alarming decline in life expectancy has lowered the United States ranking in international life expectancy, especially for women. In 2010, American women were in 41st place according to the United Nations, a drastic drop from 1985 where women were 14th.

Although, the number of Americans without a diploma has declined from 22 percent to 12 percent, Professor Olshansky still believes the drastic drop in life expectancy was still a measure of deterioration.

The study was published in Health Affairs.