A new study by a panel of the National Research Council of the National Academies has found that the rate of increase in life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen behind the rate of increase in life expectancy in several other developed countries, including among them Japan, France, Australia, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, England/Wales, and Denmark.
In a 194 page report, the study’s authors explained that while life expectancy has increased in the U.S. for both men and women in recent decades, nevertheless, in several other developed countries both overall life expectancy and expected years of life for individuals over age 50 have increased more rapidly and to higher levels than in the U.S.
The study found that the U.S. did rank high in cancer screening and survival and in heart attack survival. However, health care costs in the U.S. are much higher than the costs of comparable health care costs in other developed countries –by approximately double.
Despite high health care spending, the overall mental and physical wellness of Americans “is relatively poor,” the study’s coauthor Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been quoted as saying.
Findings showed that Americans are among the most sedentary people in the world, equaled only by Poland, with Italy, England and Spain having the next most sedentary populations.
Also, Americans have historically been among the heaviest smokers, and deaths attributable to smoking in past decades continue to substantially depress life expectancy in the United States, as well as in Belgium, Hungary, Denmark and Canada. The U.S., like nearly all countries, except Denmark, however, has shown a decline in smoking. Currently Japan’s population is the heaviest smoking in the world.
Americans also are the most obese people in the world, the study found, followed by Canada, England and Australia, with obesity being a serious epidemic throughout most of the developed world, except for Japan. The consequences of obesity are being seen in increases in the occurrences of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Mr. Preston, the study’s co-author concludes that with our obesity and sedentary lifestyle in the United States, “We are possibly setting the stage, in our behavior, for continued shortfalls [in life expectancy].”
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