Recently, a study published in The British Medical Journal found that, out of 18 high-income countries, only four experienced an increase in life expectancy between 2014 and 2016—and the United States was not one of them. Now, a new health forecasting study out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has even more bad news for American longevity.
The study of 195 countries and territories predicts that, by 2040, the average life expectancy of people in the United States will reach 79.8 years, which is a slight boost from the 78.6 we have now. However, that’s a pretty dismal uptick in comparison to the forecast for other high-income nations.
For example, Japan, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland are expected to exceed 85 years by 2040, and 59 other countries are expected to surpass 80. So 79.8 years would plunge the United States to 64th place by then, down from 43rd in 2016, which would be the largest drop among high-income nations.
Obviously, none of this is set in stone.
“The future of the world’s health is not pre-ordained, and there is a wide range of plausible trajectories,” Dr. Kyle Foreman, Director of Data Science at the IHME and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “But whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers.”
Within the United States, much of the stagnations surrounding life expectancy is due to the rise of opioid addiction and drug overdoses among those under the age of 65. But there’s also a lot of evidence to suggest that we’re just not taking very good care of ourselves. A 2017 CDC report found that only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, and a recent report revealed only 23 percent of U.S. adults are getting enough exercise. Which explains why the research projects “a significant increase in deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney disease, and lung cancer, as well as worsening health outcomes linked to obesity.”
And, in spite of the fact that we know that smoking can and will kill you, the most recent statistics on smoking state that more than 15 of every 100 Americans aged 18 years or older currently smoke cigarettes, which adds up to about 37.8 million adults in the United States.
If we don’t want to lag behind, we have to change our habits, and we don’t have a moment to waste.