SHOCKING! Life expectancy in the US is way lower than in other rich countries – Why?

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Our World in Data:

Why do Americans have a lower life expectancy than people in other rich countries, despite paying so much more for health care? 

The short summary of what I will discuss below is that Americans suffer higher death rates from smoking, obesity, homicides, opioid overdoses, suicides, road accidents, and infant deaths.

In addition to this, deeper poverty and less access to healthcare mean Americans at lower incomes die at a younger age than poor people in other rich countries.

Life expectancy and health expenditure over time, the US is an outlier

The US clearly stands out as the chart shows: Americans spend far more on health than any other country in the world, yet the life expectancy of the American population is shorterthan in other rich countries that spend far less.

The chart here doesn’t just show the latest data points, but how life expectancy and health spending have changed during the last five decades. The arrows start in 1970 and connect the annual data points for both metrics, showing the change over time. 

In the 1970s the US didn’t stand out at all, it does so now because life expectancy increased much more slowly than in other countries. At the same time health spending in the U.S. increased much more rapidly, particularly since the mid-1980s. The consequence of these two exceptional developments is that the US followed the much flatter trajectory that the chart shows.

Why is life expectancy shorter in the US?

To understand some of the key reasons that explain the comparatively low life expectancy of Americans, I will look at mortality rates cause-by-cause. Causes of deaths that kill younger people are particularly important – life expectancy captures the average age of death and the average declines strongly when people die at a young age.


  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Opiod Overdose
  • Suicide
  • Homocide

More of this detailed and very complete article at Our Wold in Data