Tag Archives: life expectancy

U.S. life expectancy increases slightly, report says

Photo: Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr

There was some good news in January’s National Center for Health Statistics data brief: People in the U.S. are living slightly longer thanks to fewer deaths from opioid overdoses and other leading causes such as heart disease and cancer. It’s the first increase in life expectancy since 2014.

However, the U.S. still lags behind other industrialized countries, even though we spend more on health care than anyone else. Average life expectancy for someone born in the U.S. in 2018 is now 78.6 years, up 0.1 percent (about one month) since 2017. It is 80.8 years in other OECD nations, which spend an average of 8.8 percent of GDP on health care, compared to 16.9 percent in the U.S. Continue reading

OECD reports highlight gaps behind life expectancy gains

Chart: How’s Life 2017, www.oecd.orgA pair of recent reports published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development could offer health journalists some story ideas on disparities for 2018.

People on average are living longer, overall. However, a pair of recent reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers a closer look at the reasons for this improvement, including long-known disparities among groups that lead certain populations not to do as well. Continue reading

Citing WHO data, writer gives thanks for health gains

Photo: Amanda Mills/U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo: Amanda Mills/U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

This holiday season, Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post turned away from politics to acknowledge some important recent health gains. Among them: declining poverty and violence, increasing reading among youth and life expectancy.

Rubin, a columnist who writes the conservative Post blog “Right Turn,” said those gains – all linked in some way to health – deserve to be celebrated. Continue reading

Life expectancy of less-educated Americans decreasing

Call it the life expectancy gap.

While Americans with higher education degrees are living longer, white men and women without high school diplomas are seeing their life expectancies shrink – by four years since 1990.

Public health professor S. Jay Olshansky, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote about this remarkable trend in Health Affairs recently (AHCJ members have free access) and Sabrina Tavernise picked up the story for The New York Times.

Judith GrahamJudith Graham (@judith_graham), AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover the many issues around our aging society.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to judith@healthjournalism.org.

Of most interest to Tavernise is what’s underlying this development, which is not affecting either blacks or Hispanics with similarly low education levels. (That observation is worthy of further investigation. Why would whites be affected but not others in similar circumstances?)

Could it be higher levels of obesity, smoking and prescription drug use among poor educated white women? The trend toward single parenting, with all the stress that this implies? Low wage jobs that don’t offer much flexibility, another potential source of stress? The lack of health insurance?

Tavernise writes:

“There’s this enormous issue of why,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard who was an author of a 2008 paper that found modest declines in life expectancy for less educated white women from 1981 to 2000. “It’s very puzzling and we don’t have a great explanation.”

“Something is going on in the lives of disadvantaged white women that is leading to some really alarming trends,” Jennifer Karas Montez of Harvard told the New York Times.

Here are the numbers from the Health Affairs study, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, which will be participating in an AHCJ webcast on aging trends:

White women without high school diplomas have a life expectancy of 73.5 years, compared with one of 83.9 years for women with college degrees, according to the latest estimates available. Between 1990 and 2008, life expectancies for poorly educated white women fell by five years.

White men without have school diplomas have a life expectancy of 67.5 years, compared with one of 80.4 years for men with a college degrees. Betwteen 1990 and 2008, life expectancies for poorly educated white men fell by three years.

To me, this is one of the most graphic, vivid illustrations of the growing gap between “haves” and “have nots” in America that I’ve yet seen. Continue reading

Series examines life expectancy disparities

In their Contra Costa Times series “Shortened Lives,” Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman start by profiling three different people from three very different (though nearby) ZIP codes, noting the life expectancy for each. Then they deliver the kicker on which all subsequent reporting hinges:

The Contra Costa Times team also produced a wonderful interactive Google Map breaking down life expectancy by ZIP code.

Though Angelis, Orantes and Rettig all have health coverage, a growing body of research shows that where they live, their social status, and the toll of chronic stress have a much more decisive effect on their health and life span than visits to a doctor’s office.

The pair explains the effect these disparities have on health care costs, as well as how they are caused and how they might be addressed, themes which are all explored further in other stories in the package.

In a companion piece, Bohan and Kleffman explain how they put the multimedia series together. Their step-by-step breakdown of how to go from census data and death certificates to an in-depth series is particularly interesting. The series was a project for the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.