U.S. Life Expectancy Lags Behind Most Industrialized Nations

Making fun of America's healthcare system is low-hanging fruit for many international commentators, what with the lack of universal coverage, incredibly high per capita costs, and frequent bankruptcies. Now a new study has been released showing that life expectancies for most US counties falls behind other industrialized nations.

The study looked at life expectancies across the USA for different ethnic groups, income levels, and genders from 2000-2007, and compared them to the 10 nations with the longest life expectancy, a group known as "the international frontier."

"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," said Dr. Christopher Murray, one of the paper's co-authors.

In general, women fared worse than men, and African-Americans had shorter life expectancies than other groups. People in Appalachia, the Deep South, and Northern Texas had the least time to live on average.

For women, the lowest life expectancies were in five counties in Mississippi, where the average age of death at 74.5 years is lower than the average age of death for people in Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru. Men in those counties and a couple of others had a mere 67 years to look forward to, behind Brazil, Latvia, and the Philippines.

On a positive note, Collier, FL, is where women live the longest, 86 years on average; and men hang on in Fairfax County, VA until 81 years old — both better than many other nations.

One of the major problems parsing this data is that even within a single state, there can be a significant difference in life span. One example that the study cites is that in Georgia, some counties have gained five years on the average lifespan, while nearby ones lose years. Nationally, life expectancy increased 4.3 years for men and 2.4 years for women — that's 3.2 years less than the international frontier for both.