U.S. life spans lag behind other affluent, developed nations and higher mortality rates among Americans under 50 are primarily the reason why, new research shows.
The University of Pennsylvania study, published in the journal Health Affairs, is based on an examination of mortality data from 2006-2008 to identify the key age groups and causes of death responsible for the U.S. life-expectancy shortfall.
The results showed high mortality rates among Americans younger than 50 accounted for two-thirds of the gap in life expectancy at birth between American males and their counterparts in other countries and two-fifths between females and their counterparts in comparable nations.
The chief culprits were non-communicable diseases, such as pregnancy complications and birth trauma, homicide, unintentional injuries, and drug overdoses primarily from prescription medicines.
"These deaths have flown under the radar until recently," said lead researcher Jessica Ho, a University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate in demography and sociology. "This study shows that they are an important factor in our life expectancy shortfall relative to other countries."
Ho said 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.
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