The United States trails dozens of other developed nations when it comes to average life expectancy, new research shows.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Health at a Glance report, the U.S. currently ranks worse than average for life expectancy, compared to other developed countries.
As of 2021, the OECD’s average life expectancy rate was 80.3 years old. Switzerland had the highest life expectancy at 83.9 years of age, while Latvia had the lowest age at 73.1 years old. The United States ranked worse than several other countries, with 76.4 years as its life expectancy.
“Japan, Switzerland and Korea lead a large group of 27 OECD countries in which life expectancy at birth exceeded 80 years in 2021,” the 2023 Health at a Glance report said.
The U.S. ranked in the second group, the data showed, where average life expectancy was between 75 and 80 years of age. Colombia ranked slightly higher than the U.S., with 76.8 years as its average life expectancy.
The organization found that between 2019 and 2021 the average life expectancy around the world fell by .7 years, with losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Provisional data for 2022 shows there was a recovery in some countries to pre-pandemic levels.
“While life expectancy has increased in all OECD countries over the past half century, progress was stalling in the decade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many countries experienced outright drops in life expectancy during the pandemic,” the report said.
Even before the pandemic, life expectancy gains had been slowing down, particularly for women, the report found. Heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and an aging population have made it difficult for the countries to maintain previous progress in keeping a high life expectancy.
According to the report, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity are the major risk factors for non-communicable diseases that contribute to the largest number of deaths worldwide. Air pollution is also a large determinant of health, the report found.
The data shows that the U.S. ranks better than other countries in the percentage of daily smokers. It ranks around average compared to other developed nations with its alcohol consumption per capita and deaths due to pollution. The U.S. is one of five OECD countries where obesity is worse than average and a leading health risk.
The Health at a Glance report assesses health performance in participating countries by examining healthcare quality and outside factors such as demographic, economic and social contexts.