Life Expectancy in the United States
The United States is most known for its freedom, economic predominance and technological advancement. However, compared to other developed countries in the world, the United States ranks at or near the bottom in terms of mortality and life expectancy while surpassing other countries in health spending.

Rank of US in OECD

Along with the United States, 35 other countries make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organization that keeps track of developed countries’ economic and human development progress.

In comparison to other OECD countries, the United States ranks 29 for infant mortality and 26 for overall life expectancy. While the life expectancy in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, this is not surprising as the life expectancy of the country has been dropping for decades.

In 1960, the United States had the highest life expectancy, 2.4 years higher than the average of OECD countries. However, in 1998, the United States dropped below the OECD average and plateaued since. The new average life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years, which is 1.5 years less than the average life of all OECD countries of 80.3.

To get a better understanding of the life expectancy in the United States, similarities and differences between the United States and other developed countries, the factors that affect the life expectancy rate in the United States and the improvements that can be made to increase the life expectancy have to be taken into consideration.

Factors That Affect the Life Expectancy in the United States

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine studied the reasons as to why the life expectancy in the United States continue to fall below the OECD average. The researchers found a plethora of problems including obesity, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and homicides.

However, they also found drugs to be one of the main contributing factors with a 137 percent increase in fatal drug overdoses between 2000 and 2014. To emphasize the significance of fatal drug overdoses in the United States- the average of 115 Americans dies every day from an opioid overdose.

On top of that, Fortune reports that six Americans die from alcohol abuse daily, the highest rate in 35 years.

Besides drugs and alcohol, the United States faces health obstacles as well. According to CNN, the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide and unintentional injuries. These causes account for 74.1 percent of all deaths in the United States.

However, the chances of having any of these problems can be reduced by taking care of oneself physically and mentally through exercise, eating right and in overall, living a positive and healthy lifestyle.

Despite the increase of the deaths in the United States, seven of the top 10 leading causes have decreased in recent years: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia and kidney disease.

Organizations Improving the Situation

  • World Health Organization (WHO). This is one of the many organization dedicated to building a healthier future for people all over the world. WHO works with 194 member states, across six regions, from more than 150 offices, working to combat diseases such as influenza, HIV, cancer and heart disease. WHO’s mission is to provide leadership on matters pertaining to health, improve norms and standards to fit a healthier lifestyle and monitor health situations and trends. Its work in the U.S. is crucial for the country.
  • Save the Children. This organization works in the United States and in many other countries around the world with a goal to save as many children as possible from an unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle. Save the Children reported that in 2017 alone, it worked with more than 155 million children in 120 countries. Out of this number, 237,000 were children in the United States.

With the help of organizations such as the World Health Organization and Save the Children, the United States, along with other countries, can continue to make economic and human developmental progress. The question of improvement in the quality of life is one most important questions that the United States has to address in the upcoming years.

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr