Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Are Mortality Rates Getting Shorter?

With all the breakthroughs in medicine, you might think that life expectancy is getting longer. But health officials confirmed that life expectancy has dropped for the second year in a row. It is currently 76 years. 

Countries all over the world saw an increase in mortality rates after the pandemic once vaccines became available. But there was no rebound in the United States. 

More bad news came last week when it was discovered that maternal mortality rates have been falling since 2021. Life expectancy for children and teens has also been getting shorter. 

Why are Life Expectancies Getting Shorter?

While shorter life expectancies are a concern for health officials, they are not surprised. A 400-page study published ten years ago called “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” says it all. Yet they are wondering why America, a country known for its innovative health system, is showing lower mortality rates than its counterparts in countries like Cuba, Lebanon, and Czechia. 

Sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets are often blamed for low life expectancy. But a current study shows declining mortality is also occurring in groups with good health. Furthermore, it is happening across all demographics. 

So, what’s the cause of low mortality rates in America? Results are varied and include the following:

  • A lack of universal healthcare
  • Unhealthy diets
  • Child poverty 
  • Social isolation
  • Racial segregation
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Drug overdoses and the opioid epidemic
  • Fatal car crashes due to Americans driving more often than people in other countries
  • Injuries
  • Violence
  • The increased availability of firearms

Despite rising mortality rates, there are some things America is doing right. For example, as compared to countries, it has advanced rates of survival after age 75, it has higher rates of cancer screening and survival, better blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, lower smoking rates, lower stroke mortality, and higher average household income. 

What’s Being Done

The ‘Shorter Lives’ study is filled with recommendations for steps the government can take to increase mortality. And while some research was performed, there were not many legislative changes. 

Department Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra responded to accusations of the government not doing enough by saying, “There so many things that we’re doing. We can’t touch everything. We can’t touch state laws that allow an individual to buy an assault weapon and kill so many people. We can only come in afterward.”

Dr. Ravi Sawhey, who was a leading force behind the “Shorter Lives” study stated that most Americans are aware that their unhealthy lifestyles are shortening their lives. “It’s just the NIH and the CDC that don’t want to take the responsibility for that failure or do anything about it,” he says. 

Other health experts recommend that the U.S. learns from other countries and initiates similar health-improving policies. These include universal care, strong health and safety protections, better access to education, and more investments made in getting kids off to a healthy start. 

In addition to low mortality rates causing people to lose the people they love, it also costs the country up to $100 billion a year in health expenses.