Although it seems like we’re living in the future sometimes, life expectancy is actually on the decline in most places. Even in developed nations, where you’d expect modern science and technology to help citizens live longer, those numbers just keep falling.
Researchers recently published a study in The British Medical Journal to reveal the tough truth about life expectancy in developed nations. They studied data from 18 of the more prosperous countries in the world between 2014 and 2016. Once they ran the numbers, there were only 4 countries where life expectancy was on the rise for both men and women.
The study compared data from the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The study showed an average decline of .21 years for women and .18 years for men. That’s only about two and a half months, but it’s still a disturbing trend. As you’d expect, most of the people affected by this trend are over 65, and the leading causes of death are respiratory and cardiovascular disease. However, in the United States, the trend in decreased life expectancy was driven by younger people. The researchers pointed to drug overdose and mental illness as some of the primary culprits.
The United States also has the highest decline in life expectancy. It declined .3 years on average, particularly among men, bucking the trend in other countries. According to the study, the “USA now has the lowest life expectancy levels among high income developed countries, and Americans fare poorly across a broad set of ages, health conditions, and causes of death compared with their counterparts in these countries.”
The current average life expectancy in America is just 78.6 years old.
Amazingly, these are the only 4 countries where people are living longer lives. The researchers were unable to pinpoint exactly why these countries were exempt from the overall trend.
In Australia, the average life expectancy is 85.46 years for women and 81.49 years for men. In Japan, women live even longer on average—87.17 years—but men live to be 81.01 on average. Denmark also showed an upswing in longevity: 82.79 years for women and 79.95 for men. Finally, Norway is the only other country to make this coveted list. Norwegian women life to be 84.17 years old on average, and Norwegian men live to be 80.61.
Japan has been studied many times for the longevity of its elders, and many reasons have been suggested. Their traditional diet, with a focus on fresh fish, seaweed, vegetables, and rice may have something to do with it. Australians tend to be more physically active and outdoorsy. And both Denmark and Norway embrace healthy cultures that emphasize community, nature, and moderate living.