The life expectancy of a nation’s residents is typically linked to its level of industrialization. Countries like South Korea exhibit this correlation, as South Korean women are predicted to live an average of 90 years by the year 2030.
The United States is an exception to this. By the year 2030, the life expectancy in the U.S. is predicted to match those of Mexico and the Czech Republic.
The lag in the United States’ life expectancy growth is not without reason. The United States has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates, as well as the highest obesity rate, among all the countries in the study.
Further research conducted by Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton has linked an increase in mortality in middle-aged white Americans with overdose, alcoholism, and suicide. Similar research from the University of Pennsylvania confirms these trends; prescription opioids, homicides, obesity, and smoking can be blamed for the United States’ slowed growth in life expectancy.
The absence of universal healthcare is another major contributor to the United States’ lagging growth in life expectancy. Majid Ezzati, who teaches public health at Imperial London College, cites a lack of universal healthcare as a major detriment to American health and says that “some people probably get diagnosed too little and too late”.
Ezzati continues to elaborate on healthcare disparity in the United States. He links the consolidation of healthcare resources on the East and West coasts with the United States’ lagging growth in life expectancy. The issue is not with the quality of healthcare, but with the spread of it. Only small populations of United States residents have access to the healthcare necessary for high life expectancy.
The effects of these factors could not be more obvious in the year 2015, during which life expectancy had actually declined for the first time since 1993. This was a year in which mortality rates for many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, increased. The year 2015 was not an anomaly in the context of American health, but a culmination of the many factors that negatively impact the nation’s average life expectancy.
One of the most significant differences between the United States and other countries like South Korea, Ezzati argues, is the importance placed on health from a young age. He states that South Korea “has a remarkable investment in childhood nutrition”, which carries on with its residents and reflects in its average life expectancy. The United States must stress the importance of its residents’ health from a young age in order to improve.
Source: Bernstein, L. (2017, February 21). U.S. life expectancy will soon be on par with Mexico’s and the Czech Republic’s.