Life expectancy declining in the U.S.

A Distressing Trend

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was on the upswing.

But now, at an average of 78.6 years (76.1 for men and 81.1 for women), it is heading the other way.

Portrait of Emory researcher K.M. Venkat Narayan

K.M. Venkat Narayan is the Ruth and O.C. Hubert Professor in Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Emory.

“While almost all of the countries of the world are experiencing rapidly increasing life expectancy, the U.S. has experienced a decline for four years in a row,” says researcher K.M. Venkat Narayan. “Furthermore, the gaps in life expectancy between the richest and poorest Americans is about 20 years.” This phenomenon is driven by rising mortality rates during middle age. “Many of the contributing conditions are potentially preventable,” says Narayan. These include opioid and substance abuse, poor mental health, homicides, suicides, hypertension, metabolic disorders, some cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases. In a recent piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine online, Narayan and colleagues suggest “taking a more integrated and holistic approach to research, whereby we do not study biology in a vacuum, but in the context of socioeconomic and political factors.”


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