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Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Friday, January 3, 2014

American Longevity Gains a Letdown

Longevity

It’s true that Americans are living longer, but a new report demonstrates that longevity is rising much slower in the United States compared to other major industrialized nations.

The new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that the U.S. average life expectancy rose by almost eight years from 1978 to 2011.  However, the current average life expectancy of 78.7 years in the U.S. is still lower then the average life expectancy of 80.1 for member nations of the OECD. 

And the U.S. is ranked near the bottom of the 34 OECD member countries for longevity gains from age 65.  A Japanese woman who turned 65 today gained 9.6 years of average life expectancy from a Japanese woman who turned 65 in 1960.  An American woman gained only 4.6 years.

The U.S. is an outlier in this report because a strong relationship usually exists between income levels and life expectancy.  This may be because all the longevity leaders have universal health coverage.  The U.S. healthcare system does have its strengths, such as cancer care, but the U.S. is spending far more than any other OECD nation for mostly inferior outcomes.  The leader in longevity gains, Japan, spent $3,213 on average per capita healthcare spending, slightly below the average of $3,322.  The U.S. spent $8,508.  It remains to be seen whether the Affordable Care Act will benefit the disappointing longevity gains in the United States.

See Mark Miller, Debunking Myths About Americans’ Longevity Gains, Reuters, Dec. 3, 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

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