U.S. loses more ground in life expectancy

Oct. 7, 2010 at 1:07 AM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Life expectancy for U.S. adults grew from 1975 to 2005 but people in other countries have been living even longer, lowering the U.S. ranking, researchers say.

Peter Muennig and Sherry Glied of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York analyzed health spending; risk factors and 15-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 to 65 in the United states as well as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The study, conducted for the Commonwealth Fund and published in Health Affairs, finds the United States still lags behind other nations when it comes to gains in life expectancy, but lifestyle is not to blame.

In 2005, U.S. smoking rates had bigger declines than in most other countries, and U.S. car fatalities and homicides remained stable during the 30-year study period -- and while people in the United States were more likely to be obese than other in 2005, this was also true in 1975, when the United States was not so far behind in life expectancy.

The U.S. ranking for 15-year life expectancy for 45-year-old men fell from third place in 1975 to 12th in 2005, while 45-year-old U.S. women were in last place.

Muennig says the failure of the United States to increase survival rates while almost doubling healthcare spending may be attributable to flaws in the unregulated fee-for-service payments and reliance on specialty care as possible reasons for high spending without commensurate gains in life expectancy.

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