Life expectancy declines in high-income countries
LIFE expectancy is declining in high-income countries worldwide, driven in part by the effects of the opioid epidemic on younger adults in the US and the impact of a severe flu season on older adults in other nations, two new studies suggest. Life expectancy is a measure of the health and well-being of a population.
Widespread or sustained declines in life expectancy may signal problems in a nation’s social and economic conditions or in the provision or quality of its healthcare services, researchers write in The BMJ. The first study looked at trends across 18 high-income countries and found that most countries experienced declines in life expectancy in 2015. This is the first time in recent decades that so many high-income countries simultaneously experienced declines in life expectancy for both men and women.
Out of 18 countries in the study, 12 experienced life expectancy declines among men and 11 experienced life expectancy declines among women. “This hasn’t occurred in decades, and the size of these most recent declines were larger than prior declines,” said study co-author Jessica Ho of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. A particularly severe influenza season drove declines outside the US in 2014-2015, primarily among adults 65 and older, the study found.
In addition to flu and pneumonia, the main causes of death in these countries were associated with an ageing population and included other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease as well as other mental and nervous system disorders.
Most of these countries reversed their life-expectancy decline in the 2015-2016 period, but in the US and the UK, the declines continued, the authors note. – Reuters