Life expectancy drops in the US and the UK, rises in Australia, a new study finds

Life expectancy fell across the majority of high-income countries, signaling a collective and simultaneous d...

Posted: Aug 17, 2018 12:26 PM
Updated: Aug 17, 2018 12:26 PM

Life expectancy fell across the majority of high-income countries, signaling a collective and simultaneous decline among affluent nations for the first time in decades, a new study finds.

Among 18 high-income countries -- including Spain, Sweden, Japan, Australia, the UK and the United States -- most countries saw declines in life expectancy between 2014 and 2015, according to the study, published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

Asia

Australia

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Demographic groups

East Asia

Employment and income status

Europe

Health and medical

Health care

Health care information

Health statistics

Japan

Labor and employment

Life expectancy

Northern Europe

Oceania

Population and demographics

Population trends

Social and economic status

Society

United Kingdom

Upper income persons

Wealthy people

North America

The Americas

United States

Diseases and disorders

Females (demographic group)

Denmark

Norway

Australia, Japan, Denmark and Norway were the only countries in the study that showed an increase in life expectancy across all years for both men and women.

The drop in the remaining 14 countries was "notable both for the number of countries and for the magnitude of the declines," the authors wrote.

Outside the United States, declines in overall life expectancy were focused among people 65 and older, with the rise in deaths among this demographic probably attributable to an unusually severe flu season, according to the study, which was co-authored by Jessica Ho of the University of Southern California and Arun Hendi of Princeton University.

It's a trend that highlights some potential issues around health-care provision within these countries, according to Domantas Jasilionis, a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany who authored an editorial that accompanied the study.

"The fact that modern healthcare systems in the most advanced high-income countries were unable to cope with this unexpected challenge, resulting in the first reductions in longevity for decades, is striking and might signal more profound problems," Jasilionis wrote.

The study also suggested that respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and other mental and nervous system disorders contributed in part to driving down life expectancy among those 65 and older.

In countries where environmental threats such as air pollution and poor air quality have become more problematic, deaths from these diseases may become more commonplace, suggests Holly Nelson-Becker, an expert in social gerontology at Brunel University in London, who was not involved in the study.

"The issue of susceptibility to influenza and respiratory problems speaks, in my view, to increasing issues of environmental problems such as smog and other forms of pollution," Nelson-Becker said.

Deaths among young adults in the US

In the United States, the decline in life expectancy was concentrated among a younger cohort of the population: those in their 20s and 30s, according to the study.

The authors associate this with the continuing opioid crisis there, which resulted in 115 opioid overdose deaths each day in 2016.

It's an alarming trend given the country's already lackluster performance regarding life expectancy among high-income countries, according to the study.

"The USA now has the lowest life expectancy levels among high income developed countries, and Americans fare poorly across a broad set of ages, health conditions, and causes of death compared with their counterparts in these countries," the authors wrote.

The study used trend estimates generated from official vital statistics -- which provide information on population mortality -- from 18 high-income countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the US and the UK.

Only four countries -- Australia, Japan, Denmark and Norway -- saw a continued rise in life expectancy across the study years. The average life expectancy for women in Australia, Japan, Denmark and Norway in 2016 was 85.46, 87.17, 82.79 and 84.17, respectively. For men, the life expectancy was 81.49, 81.01, 78.95 and 80.61, respectively.

The authors admit they couldn't establish any firm conclusions on cause and effect from the study, so it remains unclear why these four countries were able to retain increases in life expectancy over time.

Continued decline the US and UK

Most countries that demonstrated overall declines between 2014 and 2015 and then rebounded between 2015 and 2016, showing gains in life expectancy to make up for the loss.

But the US and the UK were exceptions to this trend, continuing to show declines in life expectancy in more recent years.

Social inequality, poverty and the declining quality of health-care provision in the US and the UK may be perpetuating this stagnation and decline in life expectancy, suggests Jasilionis. The life expectancy for men and women in the US in 2016 was 76.4 and 81.4 years, while in the UK, those numbers stood at 79.04 and 82.72.

The opioid crisis may be a large contributor to declining rates of life expectancy in the US, but according to a another study by the British Medical Journal published Thursday, mortality rates for organ diseases involving the lungs, heart and other parts of the body have also increased significantly.

Jasilionis adds that unequal access to health care in the US as well as wide variations in its quality may be contributing the country's underperformance in life expectancy.

In the UK, disadvantaged populations who suffer disproportionally from certain social factors, such as poverty, may be driving down life expectancy, Jasilionis said.

And while many countries did manage to rebound from a dip in life expectancy, the threat of new and emerging diseases, as well as the rising concern over antimicrobial resistance, will pose a particular challenge in the future, Jasilionis said.

"It's too early to say this [drop in life expectancy] won't happen again," he said.

"This will largely depend on if these countries are more prepared in the future to address these threats. There are more unexpected health threats emerging that will require faster responses and more technological development."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Tupelo
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 84°
Columbus
Overcast
77° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 78°
Oxford
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 83°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 75°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather