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50+: Live Better, Longer

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U.S. Smoking Rates Keep Life Expectancy Down

Study Shows High Smoking Rates in Earlier Decades Affects Life Spans in U.S.

Obesity and Life Expectancy

The group concluded that rising obesity rates in the U.S. have also played a role in lagging life expectancy gains. The report concludes that obesity may account for a fifth to a third of this lag.

The impact of obesity is much harder to quantify that that of tobacco, Preston says. But there is concern that rising obesity rates may offset the improvement in life expectancy expected from smoking reductions.

“The future is not as attractive as it would be without the epidemic of obesity,” he says. “We are the heaviest country in the Western world. We know this has an impact on life expectancy, but the magnitude of this risk is not well understood.”

The panel also investigated the impact of access to health care on life expectancy in the U.S., finding little evidence that lack of access has contributed to the lag in life expectancy gains.

Panel members relied on the latest data from the Human Mortality Database. According to the Database:

  • Between 1980 and 2007, the overall life expectancy among men in the U.S. increased from 70 to 75.6 years, while life expectancy among women increased from 77.4 to 80.7.
  • The average 50-year-old American man can expect to live an additional 29.2 years, while the average 50-year-old American women can expect to live an additional 33 years.

In 2007, men and women in the U.S. who lived to age 80 could expect to live an additional 8.2 and 9.8 years, respectively.

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