Over the past 25 years, life expectancy has been rising in the United States at a slower pace than has been achieved in many other high-income countries. Consequently, the United States has been falling steadily in the world rankings for level of life expectancy, and the gap between the United States and countries with the highest achieved life expectancies has been widening, especially for women.
The National Resource Council has recently released a report on this subject, Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries. We asked Barney Cohen, Director of the Committee on Population, for his comments:
“The relatively poor performance of the United States over the past 25 years is surprising given the country spends far more on health care than any other nation in the world, both absolutely and as a percentage of gross national product. Concerned about this divergence, the National Institute on Aging asked the National Research Council’s Committee on Population to examine evidence on possible causes. The panel concluded that a history of heavy smoking and elevated levels of obesity are two factors that are playing a substantial role in the relatively poor performance of the United States. The report should be of interest to both health researchers and policymakers.”
Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries identifies some of the main factors that have been driving differences in life expectancy among wealthy countries and discusses research gaps. This book points out that factors that contribute to lower life expectancy are more common among people of lower social status and those who are less likely to have lifetime access to health care.
A related book, International Differences in Mortality at Older Ages: Dimensions and Sources, is a collection of papers written by experts in the field to provide an assessment of the plausibility of the most obvious possible explanations that have been advanced to explain the poor position of the United States in terms of life expectancy above age 50. The authors, all of whom are at the forefront of work in their fields, provide state-of-the-art assessments of the research and identify gaps in measurement, data, theory, and research design.
These books and others from the Committee on Population can inform debate and guide decision-making.
|Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries
Over the last 25 years, life expectancy at age 50 in the U.S. has been rising, but at a slower pace than in many other high-income countries, such as Japan and Australia. This difference is particularly notable given that the U.S. spends more on health care…
|International Differences in Mortality at Older Ages: Dimensions and Sources
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Recent years have seen a growing tendency for social scientists to collect biological specimens such as blood, urine, and saliva as part of large-scale household surveys. By combining biological and social data, scientists are opening up new fields of inquiry…
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Worldwide, millions of people are displaced annually because of natural or industrial disasters or social upheaval. Reliable data on the numbers, characteristics, and locations of these populations can bolster humanitarian relief efforts and recovery programs. …