Between counties in the United States, a staggering disparity in life expectancy is increasing with correlative ties to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, behavioural, metabolic, and health care factors. Immediate attention is required to address the causes and solutions for this obvious inequality.
Increasing life expectancy is a frequently used metric for humankind as a measure of our progress. General life expectancy has nearly doubled in the last few hundred years, with a noticeable disparity between developed and underdeveloped countries. This evidence supports the idea that we must be on the right track when it comes to social policies, lifestyles, nutrition, education, and many other factors. Broadly, this is true, but recent studies are revealing unexpected regional drops in life expectancy in developed countries like the United States.
What does decreasing life expectancy in a developed nation look like? Well, the assumption would be that somehow, groups of people in that society are enduring a more difficult, health compromised life than the people of generations before them- essentially the society is moving backwards. Unfortunately, this exact scenario has been occurring in the United States, and is plaguing less ‘privileged’ counties on a significant scale. The American decrease in average life expectancy isn’t equally represented- it appears that your life expectancy can vary by up to 20 years based on the county you are born in. In other words, income is not the only thing that reveals an alarming and growing gap between the haves and have-nots.
Current life expectancy for a US resident is 79 years (for both sexes), which is lower than, but similar, to other developed nations. The localized difference of nearly 20 years by county is the alarming aspect of the data. By combining data from 1984 to 2014 from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), US Census Bureau, and the Human Mortality Database, Dwyer-Lingden and colleagues discovered strong statistical ties pointing to potential causes for this inequity: socioeconomic and race/ethnicity, behavioural and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.
This trend, marked since 1984, calls for immediate action to address drivers of socioeconomic, ethnic, metabolic, and health care factors which account for a staggering 74% of the variation. Nationwide and systemic changes may be necessary to reverse the decreasing life expectancy regionally in the United States. Added research will also be required to determine the most important causes and potential remedies for this social problem.
Written By: Soleil Grisé, HBSc