8 Interesting Facts About the Life Expectancy of Americans

Life expectancy rates worldwide are affected by a wide variety of outside circumstances, such as the availability of medicine, exercise, pollution, and crime rates. It also varies by country, gender, and race. With only 24 hours in a day, the impermanence of life is daunting. We want to live as long and as richly as we can. In some cases, steps can be taken to help increase our lifespans. However, death remains an inescapable fact of life, even if we prolong it.

  1. Black Americans Live Longer

    According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, African Americans’ life expectancies are improving much faster than those of Caucasian Americans. This wasn’t the case in 1989, when white males were expected to live an average of 72.5 years and black males were expected to live an average of 63.8. In 2009, the difference was remarkably closer, with black Americans living more around 71.2 years, contrasted with a white male’s 76.7 years. Similarly, a black woman’s average life expectancy for 2009 was 77.9 years, whereas white women lived 81.5 years on average.

  2. HIV: No Longer a Death Sentence

    According to a study presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections for 2012, a 20-year-old with HIV in America can now expect to live into their early 70s. This is only slightly lower than the life expectancy for the rest of Americans without HIV. The study reflected that those who got HIV as a result of drug use had the lowest life expectancies, and factors such as race or cell count also had a strong impact on the overall outcome. Men with HIV were shown to have higher life expectancy than women with HIV. African Americans with HIV had lower life expectancies than Caucasians and Hispanics with HIV.

  3. Heart Disease Life Expectancy

    According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, taking the lives of 599,413 people per year. Cancer took the second spot at 567,628 people per year. Dr. Larry A. Allen, a clinical instructor in cardiology, states that the life expectancy for someone with heart disease is “just four to five years with symptomatic heart failure,” while some with worse conditions within the clinic are looking at grimmer prospects.

  4. Unemployment Leads to Mortality

    A study by Columbia’s Till von Wachter and the Chicago Federal Reserve’s Daniel Sullivan shows that long-term unemployment can shed as much as 18 months off of an American’s life expectancy. If this rate continues, a worker who loses their job at age 40 can expect a loss in life expectancy of one to one and a half years. This is quite a harrowing statistic when the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than 40% of America’s unemployed have been without a job for in excess of six months. What’s worse, the length of time out of work can have negative effects on a worker’s ability to be hired back on, with companies feeling reluctant to hire someone who has been unemployed for great lengths of time.

  5. Money vs. Life Expectancy

    A survey conducted by Northwestern Mutual discovered that only 56% of Americans are financially prepared to live to age 75. Conversely, 46% of Americans claim to have the financial means to live to 85, while 36% estimate that they could budget accordingly to live until age 95. The survey also found that women were substantially less financially equipped for retirement than their male counterparts. Older generations appear to have had a better grasp on financial planning, with better returns over time as a testimony to their hard work.

  6. Longer Life, Lesser Quality

    Americans’ life expectancy continues to grow over time because of medical breakthroughs, better awareness of smoking concerns, and little things like increased seat belt usage. However, a 2010 study in the Journal of Gerontology shows an increase over the past two decades in the period of time in life in which lack of mobility and illness take the forefront. We may be getting better and better at extending life, but the quality of life within our final years may be compromised significantly as a result of Americans’ poor eating habits and stress factors.

  7. Jogging Increases Lifespan

    For Americans trying to fight the obesity epidemic, exercise isn’t just about our obsession with looking like a slim, Hollywood starlet. Researchers from the Copenhagen City Heart Study have discovered that jogging actually increases your life expectancy. By jogging one to two-and-a-half hours a week in two or three different sessions, women can add an additional five or so years to their lives, while men can add a little over six years. Furthermore, a Swiss study has shown that opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator cut in the risk of dying prematurely by 15%.

  8. Americans Coming Up Short

    According to findings posted in BioMed Central’s open-access journal, Population Health Metrics, Americans are lagging severely behind other countries in terms of life expectancy. In some cases, America is behind by a staggering 50 years. In fact, the United States is ranked at number 38 in global life expectancy, which makes us worse off than the Virgin Islands, Martinique, and Costa Rica, in spite of what we may think of as better healthcare practices.