Health Care System Issues Behind Stalled Life Expectancy Gains

Health Care System Issues Behind Stalled Life Expectancy Gains

When compared to other developed nations, America’s overall life expectancy is growing slowly according to a recent studies from the National Research Council and the World Health Organization recently found.

One of the main factors the report identified as being behind the slower gains is smoking.

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The full impact of high tobacco use rates – particularly among American men – is only now being felt, and it’s thought this could actually foreshadow a sharp increase in life expectancy since more recent generations have been much less likely to smoke.

The study also found that obesity could be contributing anywhere from 20 percent to a third of the discrepancy between the U.S. and other developed countries. Unlike smoking, obesity rates continue to be high, meaning the same uptick which has been realized from the fall-off in tobacco use is unlikely.

The underperforming levels of life expectancy in the U.S., when weighed against other rich nations, has been a source of concern, and it’s now thought that the U.S. will life expectancy rate similar to Mexico by the year 2030. While global life expectancy is set to increase by the year 2030, recent studies predict that the U.S. lag behind.

Published in the Lancet, a notable medical journal, the study says the USA life expectancy at birth is “already lower than most other high-income countries, and is projected to fall further behind.”

The studies from the World Health Organization and Imperial College London examined the life expectancy rates for 35 developed countries.

While South Korean women may soon have a life expectancy of over 90 by 2030 – and men in that nation are projected to live to an average of 84 years – the study predicted an average age of 83 for women and 79.5 for men by 2030 in the United States.

According to Majid Ezzati, a professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London, at least some of the core differential can be attributed to social norms.

“In one regard, the U.S. is almost the opposite of South Korea. The U.S. is unequal to an extent in that the whole national performance is affected. It’s the only country without universal health insurance,” Ezzati says. “The USA is also the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development without universal health coverage and has the largest share of unmet health-care needs due to financial costs. Not only does the USA have high and rising health inequalities, but also life expectancy has stagnated or even declined in some population subgroups.”

The studies also found that a large share of the increase in global average life expectancy rates has come from improvements in care for the elderly.

Ezzati says areas that perform well have seen gains from their investment in national health systems.

With no universal program guaranteeing access to health care is a solid prospect in the U.S. given the current political climate, and that is expected to impact the rates as well.

These findings from the NRC, the WHO and Imperial College London mean life insurance experts are saying  life insurance policies and rate tables are likely to be significantly impacted by new scientific evidence about the overall life expectancy in the country.