November 26, 2018

US life expectancy to drop 21 spots. Here are the 5 reasons why.

Daily Briefing

    Life expectancy in the United State will increase by just 1.1 years by 2040, causing the United States' life expectancy rating to drop from 43rd out of 195 countries to 64th, according to a study published in The Lancet.

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    Study details

    For the study, researchers from the University of Washington looked at "years of life lost" around the world based on risks that lead to premature deaths.

    The researchers found that average life expectancy in the United States was 78.7 years in 2016. They estimated that average life expectancy in the United States will increase to 79.8 by 2040, while other countries will see larger gains. As a result, the researchers predicted that, of all high-income countries, the United States' drop in its life expectancy ranking between 2016 and 2040 will be the most significant.

    Meanwhile, the researchers predicted that Spain will surpass Japan for the highest life expectancy in the world by 2040, and both will join Singapore and Switzerland as the only countries in the world with an average life expectancy over 85 years.

    Why the drop for the US?

    According to Kyle Foreman, the lead author on the study and director of data science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the top five factors behind the United States' change in life expectancy ranking are:

    1. High blood pressure;
    2. High body mass index;
    3. High blood sugar;
    4. Tobacco use; and
    5. Alcohol use.

    The researchers expect that improved technological and medical innovation, as well as increased health spending and assistance to developing countries, will help people live longer. However, they also predicted that instances of noncommunicable diseases and HIV might increase. The researchers noted particular concerns about increasing cases of HIV, citing fears of a downtick in momentum to fight the disease.

    Still, Foreman noted that "[t]he future of the world's health is not pre-ordained, and there is a wide range of plausible trajectories." But he added, "[W]hether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers" (Tanzi, Bloomberg, 10/20; Hugo, Independent, 10/19).

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