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Dying Sooner: America Falls Behind On Longevity

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Dying Sooner: America Falls Behind On Longevity


Breaking News Alert – Longevity in America is falling behind the rest of the modern world, where universal health care is ubiquitous and paid time off for illness, child bearing and vacations are common, unlike the United States.

Life expectancy at birth in America is now a year shorter than the average of 34 modern countries, while in 1970 it was a year longer, a detailed report just released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows.

Longevity at birth in America has increased, just less than in such nations as France, Japan and Switzerland.

For American women age 65, life expectancy in 2011 was another 20.4 years, far less than the 23.8 years in France and 23.7 years in Japan. Indeed, women age 65 could expect to live longer in 24 other modern countries, including Canada (21.6 years).

At age 65, American men can expect to live another 17.8 years, compared to 19 years or more in Australia, France, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland.  U.S. male longevity at 65 ranked 24th in 2011.

age graphic

The quality of life for older people in countries where people live longer is also generally better, the OECD report shows, which means more happiness and less cost.

So why is America falling behind?

Because, the report says, the U.S. has a “highly fragmented” health care system, millions eat a poor diet and some use illegal drugs. It also noted the effects of “adverse socio-economic conditions” caused by worsening poverty and increasing income inequality.

America also has a higher murder rate than most of the modern world, which primarily affects young people’s life expectancy.

In America insurance companies are free to cancel policies after healthy people get really sick. They can also gin up reasons to deny care, as explained in my book Free Lunch.

Congress has known for years about corporate death panels that pay bonuses to doctors who find excuses to deny costly care. Refuse a heart transplant, for example, and the patient dies—and the insurance company avoids the costs of the surgery and aftercare, increasing profits.

Because of really bad reporting, though, the public seems largely unaware of this, worried instead about the government death panels that exist only in the minds of Sarah Palin and other people who get lots of news coverage for their fact-free and often ridiculous statements.

That America now ranks below average certainly is not because America spends too little on health care or, more accurately, sick care.

David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston won a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of taxes in The New York Times. The Washington Monthly calls him “one of America’s most important journalists” and the Portland Oregonian says is work is the equal of the great muckrakers Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair.

At 19 he became a staff writer at the San Jose Mercury and then reported for the Detroit Free Press, Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and from 1995 to 2008 The New York Times.

Johnston is in his eighth year teaching the tax, property and regulatory law at Syracuse University College of Law and Whitman School of Management.

He also writes for USA Today, Newsweek and Tax Analysts.

Johnston is the immediate past president of the 5,700-member Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and is board president of the nonprofit Investigative Post in Buffalo.

His latest book Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality an anthology he edited. He also wrote a trilogy on hidden aspects of the American economy -- Perfectly Legal, Free Lunch, and The Fine Print – and a casino industry exposé, Temples of Chance.

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  1. gmccpa November 21, 2013

    Hmmm…most of the countries ahead of us have a socialized health care system. For some unknown reason we seem unable to embrace any concept that has the word ‘socialism’ in it. Could be because half the country uses it as a derogatory synonym for communism.

    On the plus side, if you like nostalgia, here’s your chance to revive the old cold war phrase…”better dead than red”.

    1. dana becker November 21, 2013

      They are only against it if is for the people. Corporations have no problem when it is them getting the socialized benefit and the Corporate welfare. Then it is good. They are the real takers but they want you to believe it is you.

  2. dana becker November 21, 2013

    “Put another way, for each $1 in purchasing-power-equivalent spending per capita that provides universal health care in the other 33 countries, we spend $2.64 and get misery, shorter lifespans and an increasingly uncompetitive economy.”

    The Republicans are just fine with this ideal system. They are fighting for it. They tell us they are doing it for the American people and that we want them to do this. Just like the shut down that over 70% said they did not want. They are listening to us and doing the exact opposite.

    1. dtgraham November 21, 2013

      You know you’re right dana. I never thought of it that way before. When you look at poll after poll on what Americans say they believe in and want on a broad range of issues, the Republicans virtually always propose policies that are exactly the opposite. They’re the opposite party. Why am I thinking an old Seinfeld episode here?

      “Yes, yes…I will do the opposite.” “Who are you Republican party?” “We’re the opposite of every political party you’ve ever heard of.” “This is more than just a governing philosophy to us.” “This is our religion.”

      You know who their deity would have to be? The Anti-Christ.

  3. Independent1 November 21, 2013

    “So why is America falling behind?”

    I would only add to David’s list of reasons for why America is falling behing the world in life expectancy: “The effects of GOP governance over time resulting in shortening people’s lives.”
    The fact that on average, people living in red states have 2 year shorter life expectancies than people in blue states certainly has to be contributing to America falling behind; consider that only one red state has a life expectancy at birth of 80, whereas 7 blue states have a life expectancy at birth of 80 and 2 have a life expectancy of 81 (HI and MN). In addition, 10 red states have a life expectancy at birth of less than 78, whereas no blue state has a life expectancy of less than 78. Not only this, but 11 of the 12 states where more infants die at birth or before their 1st birthday are red states.
    And a lot of the reasons why red state residents live shorter lives than blue state residents is because it’s red states that lead the nation in many of the causes David lists in his article: murders, poverty, poor diet, poor health care services and more dying because of auto accidents.
    All 10 of the states that lead America in murders/100,000 are red states. And the health care services in red states are not only fragmented, but in most red states, health care for residents other than the wealthy are drastically reduced. And the health care services they do provide is ranked very poorly – Texas for example was recently ranked as having the worst health care delivery system in the nation. And 20 of the 23 states in the nation with 15% or more of their residents living below the poverty level are red states.
    And one cause of death that may rank higher in America than in many foreign countries, is the excessively high auto accident death rates in red states. All 25 of the states that lead the nation in auto fatality rates are red states. Montana leads the nation with 2.45 people dying/100 million miles traveled followed by Louisiana with 2.17, West Virgina with 2.10, South Carolina at 2.09 and Arkansas at 1.96. Compare these high rates of auto accident deaths to the 7 northeast blue states that have far fewer dying in auto accidents: MA with .76, RI with .80, Ct & VT with .86, NJ with .95, NH with .96 and NY with .97/peolple dying/100 million auto miles traveled.

    1. Michael Kollmorgen November 22, 2013

      You got to wonder how they can claim .97 = 97% of a person can die.

      I wonder what they do with the left over 3% of its life:)

      1. Independent1 November 22, 2013

        Actually, the only New England state with more than 1 traffic fatality for every 100 million miles driven is my home state of Maine with 1.22 which means Maine has 1 fatality for about every 821,000 miles driven. New York with .97 had one fatality for every 1,031,000 miles driven. The lowest traffic fatality red state is Utah with a 1.11, or one traffic fatality for each 900,900 miles driven.

  4. Defend Liberty November 27, 2013

    Those who preach from collectivism’s altar try to justify centralized control with vague words, such as “fair”, “equal”, and “society”, that sound appealing while remaining open to subjective interpretation.

  5. Socialism is Organized Evil November 27, 2013

    Peace and prosperity do not exist because of democratic methods, but because citizens are guided by respectable laws aligned with morality.

  6. Liberalism is Nonsense November 29, 2013

    While genetic traits are inherited from the two parents, cultural traits are learned from influences such as family, friends, and media.

  7. Defend Liberty December 3, 2013

    Arguably, centralized control of private property is the most effective way to chase collectivist illusions such as “social justice”.

  8. Montesquieu December 7, 2013

    Peace and prosperity do not exist because of democratic methods, but because citizens are guided by respectable laws aligned with morality.

  9. Liberalism Is Nonsense December 12, 2013

    In many ways, liberty is an adaptation to our own individual ignorance and the uncertainty associated with future events & circumstances.

  10. Defend Liberty December 17, 2013

    As F.A. Hayek pointed out: Even though Marxism is revolutionary and Fabianism gradualist, the centrally planned and dictated system that each envisions is basically the same.

  11. Dominick Vila January 18, 2014

    Longevity is influenced by many factor, but high among them is access to preventive medical care. The reason we have lagged most industrialized nations for decades in this area is not because we don’t spend enough in healthcare, we spend more than anyone else, but because the healthcare denied access to preventive medicine to millions of Americans. A cursory analysis of the chart included in this article reveal that longevity in countries with socialized medical system is greater than those in countries like what we had until as recently as last year. A factor not included in the chart is personal satisfaction and productivity. Healthy people not only live longer lives, the enjoy life more and are more productive.


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