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Life expectancy in U.S. is slowing compared with other countries

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January 25, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times

Life expectancy has risen in the United States over the last 25 years, but it's not rising as fast as it once was. And, compared with other developed nations, U.S. life expectancy doesn't measure up.

In a report released Tuesday by the National Research Council, experts describe U.S. life expectancy as a "poor performance" compared with many other countries given the fact that the U.S. spends far more on healthcare than any other nation.

For U.S. males, life expectancy at birth increased by 5.5 years from 1980 to 2006. That's good, but it still lags behind the average life-expectancy gains of 21 other countries. For U.S. women, life expectancy at birth increased by about three years from 1980 to 2006, which also ranks much lower than other developed nations.

Why aren't Americans living the longest given the amount spent on healthcare? According to the report, about half of the gap between U.S. life expectancy and countries with higher life expectancy is due to heart-disease rates in the U.S. Moreover, among U.S. women, smoking appears to account for lower life expectancy relative to other countries.

Obesity may account for one-fifth to one-third of the shortfall in U.S. life expectancy as compared with other countries, the report states.

Though the U.S. healthcare system prolongs life, it's not nearly as effective when it comes to prevention, research said.

Related: Life expectancy has grown, but we're spending more time sick

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