Life Expectancy in Most US Counties Falls Behind -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

While people in Japan, Canada, and other nations are enjoying significant gains in life expectancy every year, most counties within the United States are falling behind.

IHME researchers, in collaboration with researchers at Imperial College London, found that between 2000 and 2007, more than 80 percent of counties fell in standing against the average of the 10 nations with the best life expectancies in the world, known as the international frontier.

Doctor Christopher Murray, IHME Director and one of the paper's co-authors: "Despite the fact that the US spends more per capita than any other nation on health, eight out of every 10 counties are not keeping pace in terms of health outcomes. That's a staggering statistic."

"When compared to the international frontier for life expectancy, US counties range from being 16 calendar years ahead to more than 50 behind for women. For men the range is from 15 calendar years ahead to more than 50 calendar years behind. This means that some counties have a life expectancy today that nations with the best health outcomes had in 1957."

The researchers suggest that the relatively low life expectancies in the US cannot be explained by the size of the nation, racial diversity, or economics. Instead, the authors point to high rates of obesity, tobacco use, and other preventable risk factors for an early death as the leading drivers of the gap between the US and other nations.

Nationwide, women fare more poorly than men. The researchers found that women in 1.373 counties – about 40 percent of US counties – fell more than five years behind the nations with the best life expectancies. Men in about half as many counties – 661 total – fell that far.

Black men and women have lower life expectancies than white men and women in all counties. Life expectancy for black women ranges from 69.6 to 82.6 years, and for black men, from 59.4 to 77.2 years. In both cases, no counties are ahead of the international frontier, and some are more than 50 years behind. The researchers were not able to analyze other race categories because of low population levels in many counties.; Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation