A Moment of Science

The United States Is Falling Behind In Life Expectancy

How come the United States is falling behind other countries when it comes to increases in life expectancy?

elderly couple on a bench

Photo: Boubkar Benzabat (Flickr)

Too much medical care can cause problems.

In the United States we have many of the world’s best trained doctors and the most advanced medical equipment.

So how come we’re falling behind other countries when it comes to increases in life expectancy?

Life Expectancy

First, we are referring to a recent Commonwealth Fund study that compared gains in life expectancy in the U.S. with several other wealthy, industrialized nations.

And, indeed, the study found that gains in life expectancy in those countries are growing at a faster rate than gains in the U.S.

So Why Might That Be The Case?

There are two possible reasons, according to the study. One may seem obvious the lack of universal health coverage in the United States.

Many Americans without insurance simply can’t afford proper medical care, and so they tend to live shorter lives.

Too Medical Coverage

Another possible reason, according to the study, is less obvious many Americans get too much medical care.

For example, a trend in U.S. health care in recent years has been to promote early and frequent screening for diseases like breast cancer.

While screening is generally helpful, it also exposes people to radiation. And too much radiation can cause health problems.

Screening

In many of the other countries studied, including Canada, France, and Sweden, to name a few, everyone has health insurance. And there’s less emphasis on CAT scans and screenings.

To be clear, the study doesn’t say that U.S. life expectancy is decreasing. In fact, it’s increasing. But it’s not quite keeping pace with gains in many other countries.

Read More: U.S. Losing Ground in Life Expectancy Rankings (WebMD)

  • Anonymous

    Well all I can say is no matter how many health insurance you have, if it is your time to go, it is your time to go.

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