Why Americans Live Shorter Lives

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LOS ANGELES, July 28 (UPI) — The U.S.-European life expectancy gap would disappear if obesity, diabetes and hypertension among middle-age Americans dropped to European levels, experts say.

Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at University of Southern California, and colleagues at Rand Corp. and Harvard School of Public Health, say 40 years ago, Americans could expect to live slightly longer than Europeans. However, today, Americans live about a year-and-a-half less, on average, than their Western European counterparts, and die younger than people in most other developed nations.

The researchers find health in middle-age, around age 50, is overwhelmingly the main contributor to disparities in life expectancy between Americans and Europeans — not U.S. healthcare system inefficiency.

They conclude getting 50-year-old U.S. adults as healthy as Europeans could save Medicare and Medicaid $632 billion by 2050.

“The international life expectancy gap appears much easier to explain than gaps within countries: there is no American-specific effect on longevity beyond differences in disease at age 50,” says Darius Lakdawalla, an associate professor in the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.

The findings are published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

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