Well, America, That’s Embarrassing

I firmly believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, and part of what makes us great are the many innovations and breakthroughs we have made in the worlds of technology, science, and health care.

So I was shocked, angry, and sad when I read the news today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that for the first time in decades, life expectancy in the U.S. declined last year. That is considered an exceedingly rare event in a year that did not include a major disease outbreak. Other one-year declines occurred in 1993, when the nation was in the throes of the AIDS epidemic, and 1980, the result of an especially nasty flu season.

In 2015, rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death rose.

An American born in 2015 is expected to live 78 years and 9½ months, on average, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is about a month less than an American born in 2014.

Looking at the data more closely, average life expectancy declined for men, falling by more than two months, to 76 years and 3 ½ months in 2015. It fell by about one month for women, to 81 years and 2 ½ months, the CDC said.

Death rates increased for black men, white men, white women, and slightly for Hispanic men and women. But they did not change for black women.

But what is even more concerning to health experts is that the U.S. has made no improvements in life expectancy over the past four years.

The United States ranks below dozens of other high-income countries in life expectancy, according to the World Bank. It is highest in Hong Kong and Japan, at nearly 84 years.

Dozens?? How is that possible? Here is the ranking:

Hong Kong SAR, China 84 Greece 81
Japan 84 Ireland 81
Spain 83 Finland 81
Switzerland 83 United Kingdom 81
Italy 83 Germany 81
Singapore 83 Bermuda 81
France 82 Portugal 81
Liechtenstein 82 Channel Islands 81
Australia 82 Belgium 81
Luxembourg 82 Macao SAR, China 81
Korea, Rep. 82 Denmark 81
Israel 82 Slovenia 81
Iceland 82 Cyprus 80
Canada 82 Virgin Islands (U.S.) 80
Sweden 82 Costa Rica 79
Norway 82 Cuba 79
Malta 82 Puerto Rico 79
Faroe Islands 82 Lebanon 79
Chile 81 St. Martin (French part) 79
New Zealand 81 Guam 79
Austria 81 United States 79
Netherlands 81

I’ll save you the counting; the U.S. is ranked 43rd.

Now at the risk of sounding like an ugly American, and showing my lack of knowledge about the world at large, it just seems like there are some countries that we should be ranked higher than. I will show some restraint in naming specific countries, but really, ******* is ahead of us?

Anyway, the decrease in life expectancy was led by an upturn in the death rate from the nation’s leading killer, heart disease. Death rates also increased for chronic lower lung disease, accidental injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide.

The only clear drop was in cancer, the nation’s No. 2 killer.

As to why such death rates increased, S. Jay Olshansky, a University of Illinois-Chicago public health researcher, suspects obesity, an underlying factor in some of the largest causes of death, particularly heart disease.

For the most part, obesity is a lifestyle issue. In other words, it’s something we can control, but we are obviously not doing a very good job at it.

Other causes for the decrease in life expectancy could be the impact of rising drug overdoses and suicides, with drug overdose deaths increasing 11 percent.

While the new CDC report did not offer a geographic breakdown of 2015 deaths, or analysis of death based on education or income, other research has shown death rates are rising sharply for poorer people – particularly white people – in rural areas but not wealthier and more highly educated and people on the coasts.

“The troubling trends are most pronounced for the people who are the most disadvantaged,” said Jennifer Karas Montez, a Syracuse University researcher who studies adult death patterns.

Hmmmm…… sounds like that nasty ovarian lottery issue is rearing its ugly head once again, along with our lack of self-control.

Come on America, we’re better than this.


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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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