Americans spend more on health care than most other people. Yet a new study shows that life expectancy in the United States is falling behind other developed countries.
In two thousand seven an American man could expect to live about seventy-five and a half years. That was less than in thirty-six other countries. Life expectancy for American women was almost eighty-one years. They were also in thirty-seventh place among almost two hundred countries and territories.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington studied the numbers. Professor Ali Mokdad says increases in life expectancy have slowed in the United States compared to other countries: "We've seen an improvement almost everywhere in the world. And in countries that are developed, we're seeing a higher improvement, a faster improvement rate, than we are seeing in the United States."
Professor Mokdad says the reason is Americans have made less progress in reducing problems like obesity and high blood pressure.
The report also identifies wide differences in life expectancy rates within the United States. The researchers created maps of life expectancy in each of the more than three thousand counties.
Areas with the shortest expected life spans are largely in the South. Ali Mokdad says researchers know some of the reasons: "Less education, less income in some of these rural counties, more likely to be smokers, more likely to be obese. They don't have health insurance, or they don't have adequate access to health care, and the quality of medical care is not as good as well."
In the United States, many public health matters are local responsibilities. For example, restrictions on smoking differ from community to community. Professor Mokdad says the country needs a long-term investment in communities to increase physical activity and improve diet.
The study appears in the journal Population Health Metrics. Journal editor Chris Murray says it was "a real surprise to us in the study that women are faring so much worse than men."
Around the country, American women still live longer than men by five to eight years. But their international ranking has been falling since the nineteen nineties. Dr. Murray says, "Women are now smoking more. The obesity epidemic in women is greater than in men. Progress in tackling blood pressure is much worse in women."
For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal.