Thursday, September 13, 2007

Living longer – and shorter

Americans living longer than ever. US life expectancy steadily growing. Life expectancy higher than ever. More years in our lives.

All news headlines after new census bureau statistics were released on Wednesday. What’s true is that an American’s life expectancy at birth rose from 77.8 to 77.9 years. But the numbers tell the real story.

First, infant mortality went up, from 6.8 per thousand live births to 6.9. Higher life expectancy only happens for those who survive being born.

Most important, there are forty-one countries whose citizens live longer than those in the US, such as Andorra at 83.5 years, Singapore at 81.7, and Australia at 80.5.

So maybe we’re living a month or so longer than we used to, but we’re living years shorter than others. And it’s getting worse: just 20 years ago we ranked 11th.

What’s the reason for the US decline in world rankings? According to the Voice of America, independent researchers say America's poor showing compared to other industrialized democracies results, in part, because of widespread obesity and a lack of health insurance.

A good diet and a good doctor? Americans might also need some more accurate news reporting.

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