U.S. Life Expectancy Disadvantage Began in 1950s, Worsened Over Time

Fifty-six countries from six continents surpassed U.S. life expectancy during 1933 to 2021

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 9, 2023 (HealthDay News) — The disadvantage in U.S. life expectancy began in the 1950s and has worsened over time, according to a study published online June 1 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, obtained life expectancy estimates in 2022 from the United Nations, the Human Mortality Database, and the U.S. Mortality Database and calculated changes in growth rates and U.S. global position.

Woolf found that from 1950 to 1954 and 1955 to 1973, increases in U.S. life expectancy slowed (0.21 and 0.10 years/annum, respectively); this was followed by an acceleration from 1974 to 1982 (0.34 years/annum) and a progressive deterioration from 1983 to 2009, 2010 to 2019, and 2020 to 2021 (0.15, 0.06, and −0.97 years/annum). In each phase except 1974 to 1982, other countries experienced faster growth. Fifty-six countries on six continents surpassed U.S. life expectancy during 1933 to 2021. The slowest growth in the United States was seen in the Midwest and South Central states.

“The gravity of the situation may justify intervention even before definitive evidence becomes available,” Woolf writes. “A prudent first step would be to examine policies that have enabled other countries to consistently outperform the United States for decades.”

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