New research shows Americans’ level of health is now lagging behind that of Europeans’. In fact, in spite of similar levels of economic development, Americans now live about a year-and-a-half less, on average, than their Western European counterparts, and also less than people in most other developed nations.
The study pinpoints the crucial age at which U.S. life expectancy starts to deteriorate.
Specifically, researchers from the University of Southern California and colleagues at RAND Corp. and Harvard School of Public Health find that health in middle-age— around the age of 50—is overwhelmingly the main contributor to disparities in life expectancy between Americans and Europeans.
The researchers estimate that by 2050 health care savings from gradual middle-age health improvements—especially in the areas of smoking and obesity—could total more than $1.1 trillion.
The researchers looked at a group of Western European countries including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
The study ran in the July 2011 issue of Social Science & Medicine and is the first to calculate the fiscal consequences of the growing life expectancy gap over the next few decades. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Institute on Aging, and the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society.