Women’s Life Expectancy Drops in the US

Life expectancy for many women in the US declined significantly between 1983 and 1999. PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed, open access journal published by the Public Library of Science, released a study on Tuesday that documents a decrease in women’s life expectancy in some of counties within the US. According to the team at Harvard School of Public Health that authored the study, the primary reasons behind the decrease are increased mortality rates due to chronic diseases resulting from smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Majid Ezzati, the lead author of the study, told Reuters, “To have 20 years of decline for about one in five American women, it is something that is rather unprecedented. We are leaving a larger and larger part of the population behind.”

Nationwide, life expectancy increased from 73.5 years to 79.6 between 1961 and 1999. However, the study showed that a decrease in life expectancy for women was alarmingly evident in counties in Appalachia, Mississippi river states, and parts of Texas. In these counties, life expectancy declined by 1.3 years.

Christopher Murray, another author of the study from University of Washington, told Reuters, “Life expectancy decline is something that has traditionally been considered a sign that health and social systems have failed, as has been the case in parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. The fact that it is happening to a large number of Americans should be a sign that the US health system needs rethinking.”


PLoS Medicine 04/22/08; Reuters 04/22/08; The Associated Press 04/22/08; The Washington Post 04/22/08

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