Student News for Horizon Honors Secondary School

The Horizon Sun

Student News for Horizon Honors Secondary School

The Horizon Sun

Student News for Horizon Honors Secondary School

The Horizon Sun

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America: The Life Expectancy Exception

The United States has become the exception in the rapid rise in worldwide life expectancy.
A representation of a human’s life.
Upstate Medical University
A representation of a human’s life.

Life expectancy is a helpful stat that determines the average age at which a country’s resident is predicted to pass away. Across the world, life expectancy has been on a rise due to modern medicine and technological advances. The United States has been a nation that has experienced a steady rise in life expectancy since the turn of the millennium. However, since 2019 the average life expectancy in the U.S. has taken a sharp turn in the opposite direction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average life expectancy in the U.S. took a dramatic drop after peaking in late 2019, when the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.8 years old. Between 2019 and 2020, the average life expectancy dropped to 77.0 years old, before dropping even further the next year. By the time 2021 came about, the U.S. had an average life expectancy of 76.1 years old, the lowest life expectancy had been in the U.S. since 1996. This drop in life expectancy is the most dramatic since the 1920s. Despite the increase in medical research and technological advancements, the life expectancy continues to drop. 

A graph showing the drop in U.S. life expectancy from 1980 to 2021 compared to comparable nations. Image courtesy of Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker

The reasons behind the life expectancy drop in the United States prove to be a tough variable to figure out. NPR states that the initial drop in 2020 wasn’t shocking, due to COVID-19. However, the drop in 2021 was, as many other nations around the world had rebounded from the pandemic. Another possible cause identified is the increase in drug and tobacco usage in young Americans. Some scientists also believe that the large amount of processed foods consumed by U.S. citizens each year is a contributing factor to the drop. Researchers have identified a group called ‘shorter lives,” which are growing causes of death amongst people under 50. This group includes factors such as teen pregnancy, drug overdoses, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), fatal car crashes, injuries, and violence.

Despite the lowering average, U.S. residents can still do certain things to help increase their personal life expectancy. The National Institute of Health suggests that people maintain an active lifestyle, avoid tobacco and alcohol, and maintain a healthy weight. Having a diet consisting of less processed foods also helps support a longer life. Strategies like these have been used in other countries, and have proven to be very successful. If these suggestions are used more in the U.S., it is likely that the average life expectancy will rise again.

Life expectancy in the United States has been on a gradual decline since 2019, despite their being solutions. If Americans begin living healthier lives, the life expectancy will likely return to its former rate

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