New research shows that the United States falls behind many other developed nations in average life expectancy, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Health at a Glance report. The U.S. had a life expectancy of 76.4 years, below the OECD’s average of 80.3 years. The report also highlighted that the U.S. ranks better than average in the percentage of daily smokers, but is one of five OECD countries where obesity is worse than average and a leading health risk.
US life expectancy lags behind developed countries
Latest research reveals that the average life expectancy in the United States falls quite behind other developed nations. The Health at a Glance report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights this with the U.S. falling below the average.
Comparing global life expectancies
As per the 2021 data, the average life expectancy across OECD countries was 80.3 years. Switzerland topped the list with 83.9 years, whereas Latvia recorded the lowest at 73.1 years. The United States, with a life expectancy of 76.4 years, ended up lagging behind several other countries.
Japan, Switzerland, and Korea led 27 OECD nations where the life expectancy exceeded 80 years in 2021, according to the 2023 Health at a Glance report. The U.S. sat in the group with life expectancies ranging from 75 to 80 years, even trailing Colombia slightly, which marked 76.8 years.
Impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy
The OECD found a 0.7-year drop in global average life expectancy between 2019 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries, as per provisional 2022 data, are starting to return to their pre-pandemic levels.
Interestingly, the progress in life expectancy had been sluggish even before the pandemic, especially for women. Diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and the challenges of an aging population have impeded efforts to keep the life expectancy high.
Key health risk factors
The report identified smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption as the primary risk factors for non-communicable diseases, which account for most deaths worldwide. It also noted air pollution as a significant health determinant.
The U.S. fared well in terms of daily smoker percentage, standing around the average among developed nations for alcohol consumption per capita and pollution-related deaths. However, it is one of the five OECD countries where obesity exceeds the average, posing a substantial health risk.
The Health at a Glance report evaluates the health performance of participating countries by studying healthcare quality and external factors such as demographic, economic, and social contexts.