Why Americans aren’t living longer
January 27th, 2011
09:16 AM ET

Why Americans aren’t living longer

With plenty of food, more money spent on health care  and modern medical innovations, it seems as if we should be living longer.

But compared to our international counterparts, we aren't. Americans lag behind other industrialized countries including Australia, Canada,  Japan and France, in life expectancy.

A new report from the National Research Council finds that Americans fall short on life expectancy compared with other high-income countries because of two vices – smoking and obesity.

Smoking was very popular in the United States three to five decades ago and the effects are being seen now.  There appears to be a lag of two to three decades between smoking and its peak effects on health.

Because the popularity of smoking waned dramatically, the life expectancy for U.S. males is likely to improve in the coming decades, the report says. The changes in women is expected to be slower, because their smoking behavior peaked later than men’s.

Lung cancer deaths are a reliable marker of the effects of smoking, but no such clear markers exist for obesity and physical inactivity, according the report.

And obesity in America is not waning.  It could account for a fifth to a third of the shortfall in longevity in the United States compared to other nations, the report says.

Here's how Americans compare in life expectancy:


Australia 83.78
Canada 82.95
Denmark 80.53
England and Wales 81.73
France 84.39
Italy 84.09
Japan 85.98
Netherlands 81.89
Sweden 82.95
United States 80.78


Australia 79.27
Canada 78.35
Denmark 76.13
England and Wales 77.46
France 77.43
Italy 78.62
Japan 79.20
Netherlands 77.63
Sweden 78.92
United States 75.64

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Gerry Cabalo

    Eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much. And American medicine has been hijacked by the DRUG industry. What did you expect?

    January 29, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. David Lloyd-Jones

    And now - in what is supposed to be reform - there's Obamneycare, Obama unwisely following Romney, which does nothing much for people but is fat fat welfare for insurance companies.

    June 18, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.