US Lags in Life Expectancy

America places 42nd, behind most developed countries; inequality, obesity blamed

By Heather McPherson,  Newser User

Posted Aug 12, 2007 1:47 PM CDT

(Newser) – The US has slipped to 42nd place in international rankings of life expectancy, the AP reports. Two decades ago, the US was in 11th place. The downgrade is partially due to the fact that the more countries are included in the survey, but rising health insurance costs, skyrocketing obesity rates, high infant mortality, and racial disparities are most likely to blame for putting the US behind most industrialized nations.

While Americans have an average life expectancy of 77.9 years, African-Americans average a 73.3 lifespan, behind Moroccans and Nicaraguans. "Something's wrong here," says one researcher, when the country "that spends the most on health care is not able to keep up with other countries." One epidemiologist chalks up the poor ranking to the fact that the US "has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy."

Elderly men play cards at an old people's recreation center in Milan, northern Italy, April 27, 2007. Italian life expectancy is 78.3 years for men and 84 for women. But more significantly, Italy holds the world record for the highest percentage of what experts call the old old.  (AP...
Elderly men play cards at an old people's recreation center in Milan, northern Italy, April 27, 2007. Italian life expectancy is 78.3 years for men and 84 for women. But more significantly, Italy holds...   (Associated Press)
Graphic shows life expectancy by country;; three sizes; 1c x 2 5/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 66.7 mm; 1c x 3 5/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 92.1 mm; 3c x 3 inches; 146 mm x 76.2 mm
Graphic shows life expectancy by country;; three sizes; 1c x 2 5/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 66.7 mm; 1c x 3 5/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 92.1 mm; 3c x 3 inches; 146 mm x 76.2 mm   (Associated Press)
An elderly man uses a cane to support his walk, left,  in Rome, Friday, April 27, 2007. Italian life expectancy is 78.3 years for men and 84 for women. But more significantly, Italy holds the world record for the highest percentage of what experts call the old old.   (AP...
An elderly man uses a cane to support his walk, left, in Rome, Friday, April 27, 2007. Italian life expectancy is 78.3 years for men and 84 for women. But more significantly, Italy holds the world record...   (Associated Press)
Laura Fenicia, 88, right, holds the arm of Irina Petrechko of the Ukraine, in Rome, Wednesday, June 27, 2007. Italian life expectancy is 78.3 years for men and 84 for women. But more significantly, Italy holds the world record for the highest percentage of what experts call the old...
Laura Fenicia, 88, right, holds the arm of Irina Petrechko of the Ukraine, in Rome, Wednesday, June 27, 2007. Italian life expectancy is 78.3 years for men and 84 for women. But more significantly, Italy...   (Associated Press)
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