Study shows Australian life expectancy up while British, American down

Lester Mason
August 18, 2018

There's been a similar pattern in the United States, where men now live an average of 76.4 years and women for 81.4 years. Extensive or perpetuated downswing in life expectancy may gesture complications in a country's social and economic constrain or in the allocation or caliber of its healthcare services.

But in the U.S., the decline was concentrated at younger ages, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, and largely driven by increases in drug overdose deaths related to its ongoing opioid epidemic.

Japanese people live the longest with women having an average life span of 87.2 years and men 81 years.

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 in the study. In the non-US countries, the declines were mainly at ages 65 and older, and are likely due to an especially severe influenza season.

The researchers say the findings point to an urgent need to examine systemic causes of this declining health in the US.

Britain is the only western country other than the opioid-ridden USA in which life expectancy has continued to fall after a bad flu outbreak in 2014-15, in a pattern which researchers said was reminiscent of post-Soviet Russia.

Life expectancy is an action of the health and welfare of the population. The main causes of death resulting in the life expectancy declines in these countries were influenza and pneumonia, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and other mental and nervous system disorders. Researcher Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth University and his colleagues found that mortality rates were also increasing significantly for organ diseases involving the heart, lung, and other body systems - although drug overdoses, suicides, and alcoholism were still the leading causes of excess deaths.

Previous studies have documented a rise in "deaths of despair" among middle-aged white people in the US.

While other studies have shown a rise in "deaths of despair" among middle-aged whites in the United States, this is the first study to report that the trend now involves multiple body systems and is affecting numerous racial and ethnic groups.

These increases are offsetting years of progress in lowering death rates among black and Hispanic adults.

The authors say no single factor, such as opioids, explains this phenomenon.

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 in the paper.

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.

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