Americans don't live as long as people in other wealthy nations on average, and they're less healthy overall. And although American life expectancy has been ticking up over the last 25 years, it's been rising more slowly than in countries like Japan, France and Australia, widening the global longevity gap. It's a confusing phenomenon, especially considering that the U.S. spends far more on health care than any other nation in the world.
That's why the National Institute on Aging asked the National Research Council to assemble a panel of experts to study the problem. The resulting report, which was released Tuesday, pinpoints some key causes, many of which should sound familiar: heart disease, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, income disparity and unequal access to care.
From 1980 to 2006, life expectancy at birth for American men increased by 5.5 years, to 75.1. For women, life expectancy increased by about 3 years, to 80.2, over the same time period. That lags behind the average life-expectancy gains of 21 other countries, but the good news is that there are indications that the U.S. is poised to gain ground.
On average Americans don’t live as long as people in many other wealthy nations, and they’re less healthy overall — this, despite the fact that the U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation in the world. A new report by the National Research Council lays out the reasons for America’s longevity problem, but also indicates that the U.S. is poised to gain ground.