What’s Behind America’s Lagging Life Expectancy?
American life expectancy is on the decline for the first time in decades and there are a number of factors that come into play. Today, let’s talk about two important variables that are affecting our normal life expectancy — obesity and opioids.
The Greatest Threat Comes From Obesity
More Americans are becoming obese. Roughly a third of the people in the United States are. This leads to a number of health problems as well as a decline in overall life expectancy.
Obesity as a cause of early death is the easiest to prevent. Being just 40 pounds overweight can shave 3 years off of your life expectancy while being 100 pounds overweight can shave off a decade.
There are a few things that have made America number one in terms of obesity, one of which includes our diet. We eat more processed foods than anyone else, and we only get an average of 30% of our daily calories from fresh unprocessed foods.
Government subsidies have made these processed and fast foods more profitable for decades, and it has made this diet a cultural norm for everyone here. Our attitudes toward work play a role in our weight issues, too.
When we work more and play less, we become so stressed out that we often turn to food for comfort. This can also contribute to obesity.
Obesity on its own is bad enough for your body, but it also increases the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes. It can also lead to heart disease and stroke.
If this sounds like you, here are some simple ways in which you can turn your health around:
- Only drink water and say goodbye to sugary drinks
- Go for a walk every day
- Eat more fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables
Opioid Deaths Are On The Rise
Opioid prescriptions have been on a steep rise for decades, and this has led to an increase in addiction. People start off taking pain medications with a prescription for various reasons. When their supply runs out, they are left with a dilemma: buy it on the streets or seek addiction treatment.
Since addiction treatment still hasn’t surpassed the advances in opioid prescriptions, many still prefer to buy their supplies off the street. Eventually, the habit becomes too expensive to maintain such that addicted people switch to cheaper and more readily available heroin.
This has led to a surge in heroin-related overdose deaths. In 2014 alone, nearly 30,000 people died from heroin overdoses, and that number has continued to skyrocket. There has been constant news regarding people passing out from overdosing with heroin while driving, sometimes with their children in the car. It has become a serious national health crisis.
Socioeconomic Disparity In Life Expectancy
What is probably the most shocking thing about the latest American life expectancy statistics is the disparity between different socioeconomic classes. The life expectancy for lower-class Americans has gone down significantly over the past several decades, while the life expectancy for higher class Americans has gone up dramatically over the same period.
In 1980, the poorest American man could expect to live to 76.2 years, while the poorest American woman could expect to live to 82.5 years. Today, that same man will only live to 76.1 years, while that same woman will only live to 78.3 years.
Upper-middle-class men and women have made the most significant gains in life expectancy during the same time period. Upper-middle-class men could expect to live to see 79.9 years in 1890, while upper-class men could expect to live to see 82.6 years.
Today, those same men can expect to see 87.8 years and 88.8 years respectively–a significant increase. Upper-class women have made similar gains, going from a life expectancy of 86.1 years in 1980 to a life expectancy of 91.9 years today.
Do upper classes experience less stress, healthier lifestyles, and receive better medical care than the lower classes? Learn more about the decrease in American life expectancy from this infographic.
What can you do to increase your chances of long-term survival?
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Author: Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.