Life expectancy for Americans has dropped to the lowest levels in nearly three decades, according to a prominent global report.
With a middling current average of 76.4 years, the United States has now been eclipsed by nearly every other developed nation, according to recent data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The last time the country reported lower numbers was 1996, according to the World Bank.
Ranked among all countries analyzed for the report, the U.S. was listed in 34th place this year.
In 2003 it was ranked 10th.
The precipitous fall places the country among the top six with the largest declines.
Globally, the average life expectancy rate was 80.3 years old, with Switzerland having the highest (83.9 years old) and Latvia reporting the lowest (73.1 years old).
The OECD found that the average life expectancy around the world fell by .7 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate slowly began to rise again last year.
However, the increase in life expectancy around the world began to slow even before the pandemic, especially for women, the report found.
The organization cited heart disease (the leading cause of death for Americans), stroke, obesity and diabetes (cases which are expected to double by 2050) as the main diseases impacting people’s health around the world.
Air pollution, smoking and alcohol consumption — the latter now at levels reminiscent of the Civil War era — were found to be the top risk factors hindering rising life expectancies.
The data also showed that while the US ranks better than other countries in the percentage of daily smokers, it reported above average rates of alcohol consumption per capita and deaths due to pollution compared to other developed nations.
Meanwhile, the country’s obesity rate is worse than average, as the US grapples with the obesity epidemic.
“We may be one of the richest countries in the world, and we certainly outspend every country on health care, but Americans are sicker and die earlier than people in dozens of countries,” Dr. Steven Woolf said in a news release, reporting data similar to the OECD report.
“Even Americans with healthy behaviors, for example, those who are not obese or do not smoke, appear to have higher disease rates than their peers in other countries,” according to Woolf’s research, published in the American Journal of Public Health.
The new analysis “shows that premature deaths among Americans are a much larger and older public health issue than previously believed,” Woolf added.
However, the study found major differences between the states. Life expectancy was generally highest throughout the Northeast and West, and lowest in South Central and Midwestern states.