Life Expectancy Growth in the U.S. – Slowing Down

When I read the article Americans Fall Behind in the Getting Older Race at National Public Radio (NPR), I was impressed by the graphics — and how easy they were to understand — so I decided to share one or two of them here at As Our Parents Age, along with more information about the report that the NPR article describes.


NPR’s life expectancy story, by Robert Krulwich, shares a good deal of  information, but I’ve added links to the book and PDF as well as sharing the two graphs. Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries (194 page pdf), is a book recently published by the National Academy of Sciences. The book attempts to answer the question about why the United States is experiencing decreasing gains in life expectancy, a question posed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Reading chapter I of the book, which includes many more graphs, is not difficult. Though the balance of the book includes a lot of technical language, it might be called descriptive epidemiology, it’s not at all impossible to read, and the digital version allows a reader to click and enlarge the charts.

The NIA asked the authors to consider possible answers as to why the increase in life expectancy in the United States is growing more slowly — for about 25 years the U.S. growth rate has been below the growth rate of other higher income countries — especially given that we Americans spend so much more per person on health care. Both of these charts show clearly how life expectancy in the United States is increasing, but U.S. growth is not keeping up with he growth in other countries. Therefore, the red dots, which represent the U.S., work their way to the bottom of the chart with each passing year.

Author’s Note: At the NPR website I was completely unimpressed — bothered in fact — by the nature and quality of the comments that followed the story. It makes one recognize that thoughtful commenting may be going by the wayside and that most of us are not up to using the privilege and opportunity of commenting appropriately. If you share my concern you might enjoy reading a recent post, Conversations on Commenting, on my other blog,


2 thoughts on “Life Expectancy Growth in the U.S. – Slowing Down

    • Thanks for your comment! The PDF version or the book is free, though to examine the graphs in larger size you will want to look at it online or at least on a computer rather than in print.


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