US ranks among the worst for life expectancy improvements out of high-income countries

US ranks among the WORST for life expectancy improvements out of 22 wealthy countries as scientists blame the opioid crisis and 2008 financial crash

  • Life expectancy in US has all but stalled since 2011, international study found
  • It improved by just two weeks for American men and two months for women
  • Only Iceland had a smaller improvement for men out of 22 wealthy countries

Life expectancy improvements have stalled in the US worse than most other wealthy countries, research shows.

Experts say the financial crash in 2008 may have fuelled the trend, along with the current opioid epidemic ravaging the nation.

Since 2011, the average life expectancy in the US improved by just two-and-a-half weeks for an American man and two months for a woman.

Only one country, Iceland, showed smaller gains in life expectancy for males. The US was among the bottom five for females, ahead of only Canada, England and Wales, and Iceland. 

It means that today, the average boy born in the US will live until they are just over 76 and a girl lives to roughly 81.

Life expectancy improvements since 2011 in the US have stalled worse than the majority of other high-income countries. Here, the worst 10 for men (blue) and women (pink) are shown

The worrying findings were revealed in the first international study to compare life expectancy and mortality rates from 1970 to 2016 across 22 wealthy countries.

These include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and countries in western Europe including France, Italy and Switzerland. 

The researchers believe the stalling life expectancy rates in the US are partly due to the financial crash of 2008.

They also point to the ongoing opioid epidemic which claims around 50,000 lives a year. 

NHS waiting lists are at an all-time high

A damning report has shown more than 4.41million patients were stuck on waiting lists in England in August – up by 250,000 from last year.  

And 662,053 people have waited more than 18 weeks for routine treatments, such as joint replacements – the highest since records began.

Health leaders have condemned the figures and said they show the NHS could face its worst winter ever with Brexit, harsh weather conditions and flu on the horizon.  

NHS bosses said trusts up and down the country are working ‘incredibly hard’ to prepare for the winter and make sure patients are kept safe. 

But the Royal College of Nursing fears more and more patients are going to be treated in corridors as pressure gets piled on the health service. 

And the Royal College of Surgeons warned the upcoming winter pressure, Brexit and the NHS pension crisis will create a ‘perfect storm’ for hospitals this winter. 

Experts called for ‘swift and far-reaching’ Government action to get the NHS braced for winter.  

The waiting times refer to patients who are waiting for routine but important operations such as joint replacements.

Those included in the 4.41million are the ones who have been referred for surgery by a specialist but have not yet had the procedure.

That figure is up by 250,000 from the same time last year and 1.1million from August 2017. 

But the research was even bleaker for England and Wales, where the risk of death in 25 to 50-year-old men and women is now 20 to 40 per cent higher than the average across the 22 other countries.

The analysis, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, showed death rates had risen in every age group in the British countries except for young boys. 

The study, published in the journal Lancet Public Health, says life expectancy may have been affected by cuts to the NHS and a flu outbreak, which killed 44,000 people in 2014 and 2015. 

While male life expectancies have largely risen in line with other countries, women have lagged behind, being ranked 20th out of the 22 countries in 2016. 

That is likely to be because British women started smoking earlier in the 20th century than those in other countries, and became heavier smokers.

Life expectancy may also have been affected by the north-south divide in England, which means younger adults further up the country are more likely to die from alcohol and drug abuse.

The study concludes that the rise in deaths among working-age people, which began in the mid-2000s, needs ‘urgent attention’.

Lead author Professor David Leon from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: ‘These trends represent a real reversal of the situation in England and Wales in the 1970s and 1980s, when this working-age group had lower mortality than seen elsewhere, almost certainly in part because in this period the UK as a whole had notably low mortality from external causes such as injuries, poisonings and violence.

‘Further work is urgently required to understand what the reasons are for this reversal since 2000, and how far it may be due to adverse trends in injuries, violence and alcohol or drug-related deaths.’

Professor Leon added: ‘Today the world is facing major challenges, from climate change to the disruption of long-established aspects of international collaboration and cooperation, many of which may have a negative impact on future health progress.’


  1. Norway 1.62
  2. Japan 1.56
  3. Luxembourg 1.41
  4. Ireland 1.30
  5. Denmark 1.25
  6. Switzerland 1.25
  7. Finland 1.23
  8. New Zealand 1.20
  9. Austria 1.07
  10. Spain 1.01
  11. Italy 1.01
  12. Belgium 1.00
  13. France 0.89
  14. Australia 0.83
  15. Portugal 0.81
  16. Sweden 0.78
  17. Netherlands 0.68
  18. Germany W 0.62
  19. Canada 0.45
  20. Scotland 0.42
  21. England & Wales 0.37
  22. USA -0.05
  23. Iceland -0.17



  1. Luxembourg 1.57
  2. Japan 1.28
  3. New Zealand 1.17
  4. Denmark 0.96
  5. Belgium 0.79
  6. Norway 0.72
  7. Spain 0.70
  8. Ireland 0.70
  9. Australia 0.61
  10. Italy 0.60
  11. Finland 0.56
  12. Switzerland 0.54
  13. Portugal 0.54
  14. Austria 0.49
  15. Sweden 0.42
  16. Germany W 0.40
  17. France 0.30
  18. Netherlands 0.26
  19. Scotland 0.24
  20. USA 0.18
  21. Canada 0.16
  22. England & Wales 0.11
  23. Iceland 0.01