Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    U.S. Life Expectancy Lags Behind

    Researcher Calls Findings 'Alarming,' Says Americans Need Help to Improve Preventable Risk Factors

    U.S. Life Expectancy: County by County continued...

    Translated, the researchers say this means some counties' life expectancy was like that of the top 10 nations 50 years ago.

    For women and men, Mississippi had the lowest life expectancies.

    The best places to live, life span wise? For women, Collier, Fla., where the average life span was 86 years. That beats France, Switzerland, and Spain.

    For men, it's Fairfax County, Va., where the average life expectancy is 81.1 years. That is better than Japan and Australia.

    U.S. Life Expectancy Lag: Explaining It

    Mokdad cites four reasons for the lag in life expectancy in the U.S.:

    • Socioeconomic factors such as income and education. More education, he says, translates to a person being more likely to seek and follow medical advice.
    • Access to health care. Some rural areas have shortages of doctors, he says, and many people lack health insurance.
    • Quality of medical care. While some areas have superior care, many others do not, he says.
    • Preventable risk factors such as obesity and smoking. Mokdad cites this as ''the main reason in this country we are behind."

    However, Mokdad says the blame in not doing a better job in preventing obesity and stopping smoking lies in the system, more than in the people.

    Behavior change, he says, requires a supportive community. "Many neighborhoods are not safe to walk in," he says, citing traffic hazards as well as crime.

    The U.S. needs to take a page from those of other countries, he says, such as Australia, which promotes public health with community programs. "Australia invested in a lot of programs at the community level," he says. The country has a widespread skin cancer prevention campaign, for instance.

    More public health programs that reach out to the community are needed in the U.S., he says.

    U.S. Life Expectancy: Perspective

    Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, director of the Global Health Institute at Emory University, prefers to call the new report ''enlightening" rather than ''alarming." He reviewed the report for WebMD but was not involved in the research.

    Today on WebMD

    blueberries
    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
     
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    smiling after car mishap
    9 things no one tells you about getting older.
     
    fast healthy snack ideas
    Article
    how healthy is your mouth
    Tool
     
    dog on couch
    Tool
    doctor holding syringe
    Slideshow
     
    champagne toast
    Slideshow
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Quiz
     
    Man feeding woman
    Slideshow
    two senior women laughing
    Article