Americans die younger than people in other high-income countries, and drug poisonings, gun injuries and motor vehicle crashes are largely to blame, a study finds.
To see how the United States measures up in terms of life expectancy, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared its death rates in 2012 with those of a dozen other countries with similar economies, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and other European countries.
The researchers found that men and women in the United States lived 2.2 fewer years than residents in similar countries. American men and women could only look forward to a life expectancy of 76.4 and 81.2 years, respectively, compared with the 78.6 and 83.4 years of their peers abroad.
“The idea that Americans live several years shorter than we would expect them to, given the level of development, is sort of already known, but every time I come across that number it seems staggering that we get two fewer years of life just for living here,” said Andrew Fenelon, a senior service fellow at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and senior author of the study, which was published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The current study didn’t look at which U.S. age groups were at the greatest disadvantage in terms of life expectancy, “but from my experience the largest gaps are between 25 and 65, so this prime middle-age adulthood,” Fenelon said. However, other age groups in the United States, including infants, have also been known to face higher death rates, he added.
Fenelon and his colleagues took their investigation one step further and asked what is killing Americans. They focused on injuries, which are the leading cause of death for Americans between 1 and 44 years of age. Among injuries, those that are responsible for the greatest number of deaths are drug poisonings, gun injuries and motor vehicle crashes.