Smoking and Obesity Shorten Life Expectancy in the US


The life expectancy of most citizens at age 50 has increased, but it is noticeably slower compared to other countries like Australia, Japan, and 21 other countries, as released in reports from the National Research Council, an arm of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

shorter life expectancyThe US is spending more on health care than any other country, and this slowing pace of life expectancy is alarming. Samuel H. Preston, a professor of demography at the University of Pennsylvania says that “We determined the most likely source of our shortfall is cigarette smoking, particularly the heavy amount of smoking done by American women. Obesity also appears to be important, but we are less certain of its role. We are the heaviest country in the Western world.”

Women in the US has a rate of 33.1 years at a life expectancy of 50 years, while in Japan, Australia, Switzerland, and Sweden,  it’s at 35.5 on the average.

Americans smoked heavier than their Japanese and European counterparts fifty years ago, and this is why it has affected life expectancy rates in the US today. The effect of smoking on mortality rates takes 30 years to be seen, and as fewer men are smoking in the US for the last 20 years, the life expectancy of men might improve in the coming decades. In the case of women, their smoking peaked later than in men; this would naturally translate to more alarming statistics for the coming years.

Obesity’s role in the life expectancy rate isn’t as clear yet. Some researchers are putting it responsible for one-fifth to one-third of the life expectancy gap between the US and other developed countries. Obesity can also level off the gained years in reduced smoking, reports say. However, recent data gathered shows that the epidemic on obesity is declining and death associated with such conditions will be decreased.

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