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U.S. Found to Be Losing Ground in Life Expectancy
Date:6/15/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- A full 80 percent of U.S. counties lag behind other leading nations in terms of life expectancy, and the gap is getting bigger, according to a new county-by-county report.

Life expectancy in some areas of the United States is actually decreasing, whereas it's increasing in the world's 10 leading nations, the report found.

"The gap between the U.S. and the 10 countries in the world that have the best life expectancies -- places like Australia, Canada, Sweden and Japan -- is widening," said Dr. Christopher Murray, lead author of the new report, published online June 15 in Population Health Metrics. "There's really no reason we can't keep pace with those other countries. We spend more on health care. We have the best health research in the world. That was a real shock."

Overall, life expectancy in the United States edged up 4.3 years for men and 2.4 years for women between 1987 and 2007, but that remains short of the gains other nations are experiencing.

In 2007, life expectancy for American women, at 80.8 years, ranked 33rd in the world. The life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, ranked 36th.

In some U.S. counties, the life expectancy is more than 50 years less than that of other developed nations. However, in other U.S. counties, life spans are an average of 15 to 16 years longer than the best of other nations.

But the comparison between individual U.S. counties and other nations may not be an entirely fair one because the life expectancy formula used for other countries creates "an unusually long-lived frame of reference compared to the U.S.," said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health and a senior research scientist with the Center on Aging at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "It would have made more sense to compare U.S. county life expectancies with county equivalents in other count
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