Life expectancy in the US is now among the worst of any developed nation, according to a damning global report.
An American born today can expect to live to a little over 76 – a nearly 30-year low – which is lower than countries like crime-ridden Colombia, Estonia and China.
The 2023 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) report compared life expectancy and a series of other health metrics in 48 developed countries for 2019 through 2022.
America’s life expectancy of 76.4 put it in 34th place – 15th from the bottom – and far short of the OECD average of 80.3 years.
The nation’s status hasn’t changed much over the last decade. The OECD 2021, 2019 and 2013 reports had the US 16th from the bottom. Two decades ago the country fared a little better – the 2003 report placed the US 10th from the bottom.
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The above graph shows the life expectancy at birth in four dozen countries across the globe. The US ranks 15th from the bottom
The above graph shows the change in years in life expectancy among 48 countries. The US life expectancy fell by 2.4 years from 2019 to 2021
The report attributed America’s low life expectancy to obesity rates, heart disease, alcohol consumption, smoking and diabetes. While previous similar reports have attributed excess deaths to fentanyl and gun violence.
The report found the United States fell behind countries plagued with crime and violence, such as Colombia, which has never topped the US in the OEDC’s reports since it began being included in 2015.
The South American country hosts an array of criminal groups and gangs and is among the three largest cocaine-producing countries in the world. An estimated 24,000 combatants are present in the country as part of armed groups and organized crime.
In 2022, the homicide rate in Colombia was 26.1 per 100,000 people, compared to America’s rate of 6.3 per 100,000 people.
Across the globe, people are living the longest in Japan, which had a life expectancy of 84.5 years in 2022. Switzerland was second, at 83.9 years and South Korea followed in third at 83.6 years.
Countries rounding out the top 10 included: Australia, Spain, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Italy and Luxembourg.
The UK placed 26th and had a life expectancy of 80.4 years in 2020, the most recent year data is available.
Making up the bottom three nations alongside South Africa was Indonesia, where the life expectancy was 68.8 years and India, where people live for an average of 70.2 years.
Not only does the US have a worse than average lifespan, the nation’s life expectancy fell by more than two years, according to the OEDC report, putting it among the top six countries that had the largest declines.
From 2019 to 2021, the US shaved 2.4 years from the average lifespan. The countries in which life expectancy fell more include Bulgaria (down 3.7 years,) Slovak Republic (down 3.2 years), Romania (down 2.8 years), Latvia (down 2.6 years) and Poland (down 2.5 years).
Between 2010 and 2019, the only data available, the UK’s life expectancy actually rose by nearly one year.
The OECD average decline from 2019 to 2021 was 0.7 years.
The report attributed many of the losses to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, life expectancy gains were slowing even before the pandemic, particularly for women.
Now, provisional data for 2022 shows there was a recovery in some countries to pre-pandemic levels.
The above graph shows the causes of death in four dozen countries around the world. Of the deaths, diseases of the circulatory system, which include stroke and heart disease, and cancer remained the two leading causes in most countries.
The above shows the percentages of causes of death around the world. Diseases of the circulatory system were responsible for 28 percent of deaths worldwide and cancers made up 21 percent. Covid accounted for seven percent of deaths
The report stated: ‘While life expectancy has increased in all OECD countries over the past half century, progress was stalling in the decade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many countries experienced outright drops in life expectancy during the pandemic.’
The report said heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and an increase in the aging population made it difficult for countries to maintain progress in increasing lifespans.
Smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity are among the major risk factors for non-communicable diseases – conditions not caused by an infection and that cannot be spread from person to person – that lead to the most deaths worldwide.
In 2021, about 12.89million people died around the world, equivalent to 932 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
This is about 1.5million more deaths than in 2019, which is largely attributable to the pandemic.
In the US, the death rate was 1,034 deaths per 100,000 people.
Of the deaths, diseases of the circulatory system, which include stroke and heart disease, and cancer remained the two leading causes in most countries.
Diseases of the circulatory system were responsible for 28 percent of deaths worldwide and cancers made up 21 percent.
Covid accounted for seven percent of deaths.
In the US, of the causes of death identified in 2021, diseases of the circulatory system killed the most people, followed by cancers and Covid-19.
This report is not the only recent data to reveal the dire situation in America.
Earlier this year it was revealed the US fell among the top 10 countries with the highest mortality scores for certain noncommunicable diseases.
Researchers from the life insurance firm William Russell analyzed data on death rates from six common non-communicable diseases – cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, liver disease and kidney disease.
Turkey took the top spot with the highest overall mortality score and the United States ranked ninth overall.
America’s poor position was blamed on a combination of high obesity rates — raising the risk of multiple diseases — and previously higher smoking rates.
A second separate report in September also exposed the grim situation of life and death in America when it was determined the US could avoid 1million deaths per year if mortality rates in the country were on par with those in other rich countries.
Researchers looked at the rate of all-cause mortality per population size since the 1930s in nearly two dozen peer nations, including the UK, Canada, Japan, Australia and 17 European countries.
They found despite the US being the richest nation, it has suffered more deaths per capita than any of the 21 other nations since around 1980.
The study noted the opioid and fentanyl epidemic, gun violence, and obesity-related deaths, which were all exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, as the reason America is an outlier.
Steffie Woolhandler, senior author of the September study and professor at the School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College, also blamed America’s healthcare system, insurers, corporate greed and politicians for the avoidable deaths the US has experienced.
Woolhandler said: ‘We waste hundreds of billions each year on health insurers’ profits and paperwork, while tens of millions can’t afford medical care, healthy food, or a decent place to live.
‘Americans die younger than their counterparts elsewhere because when corporate profits conflict with health, our politicians side with the corporations,’ she added.
Unlike many countries with the lowest mortality rates and highest life expectancies, the United States does not provide universal healthcare coverage to its residents.
The OECD’s report shows the average percentage of residents in the organization with insurance coverage was 98 percent.
In 2021, 23 of the countries had 100 percent of its residents covered by public insurance. Another two had 100 percent covered by private health insurance. Another one had 100 percent covered by a mixture of private and public.
With 53 percent of residents covered by private insurance and 38 percent covered by public, the US was fourth from the bottom of OEDC countries with insurance coverage across the country.
It only ranked above Mexico (72 percent coverage), Romania (86 percent coverage) and it tied with Costa Rica (91 percent coverage).
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