Under-50 group lowers US life expectancy

U. PENNSYLVANIA (US) — High mortality rates among Americans under 50 explain why life expectancy is lower in the US than in most developed nations, a new study finds.

The new study finds that excess mortality among Americans younger than 50 accounted for two-thirds of the gap in life expectancy at birth between American males and their counterparts and two-fifths between females and their counterparts in the comparison countries.


Jessica Ho, a doctoral candidate in demography and sociology at University of Pennsylvania, used cross-national mortality data from 2006-2008 to identify the key age groups and causes of death responsible for the US life-expectancy shortfall. The study is published in Health Affairs.

Most of the excess mortality of those younger than 50 was caused by noncommunicable diseases, including perinatal conditions, such as pregnancy complications and birth trauma, homicide, and unintentional injuries including drug overdose, which Ho says is a striking finding of the study.

“These deaths have flown under the radar until recently,” Ho says. “This study shows that they are an important factor in our life expectancy shortfall relative to other countries.”

She points out that the majority of the drug overdose deaths stemmed from prescription drug use.

Ho says her study underscores the importance of focusing on policies to prevent the major causes of deaths below age 50 and to reduce the social inequalities that lead to them.

Source: University of Pennsylvania