- White female high school drop-outs lived to 78.5 years in 1990, 73.5 years in 2008
- Females who finished college lived for 83.9 years, males for 80.4
- White males who didn’t finish high school reached 70.5 years in 1990 and 67.5 2008
- Black and Latino life expectancy rose, regardless of education
- The average Latin American life expectancy rose 45 years from 29 in 1900, to 74 in 2010
- American women are now 41st in the world life expectancy league table
- They were 14th in 1985
By Daniel Bates
PUBLISHED:10:39 EST, 21 September 2012| UPDATED:11:32 EST, 21 September 2012
Poor white Americans are seeing their life expectancy decrease in trend that is close to what happened during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Researchers have found that white women who did not finish high school saw the steepest decline and lost five years of their lives between 1990 and 2008.
White men with a similar education died three years earlier than they should have over the same period.
Black and Latino men and women, however, all saw their life expectancy rise.
A similar study, presented by the Pan American Health Organization, found that the average life expectancy in Latin America has risen from 29 years in 1900 to 74 years in 2010, Fox News Latino reported.
The researchers were appalled that in the US, the richest country in the world, people were living shorter lives and said the findings were ‘deeply troubling’.
Until now rising life expectancies have been a given in the developed world and that decreases only happened in war-torn African countries.
But a combination of unhealthy lifestyles, obesity and prescription drug overdoses appear to be changing that.
The research found that a lack of education was the key factor – white women who did not finish high school lived to 78.5 years in 1990 but just 73.5 years in 2008.
By comparison white women who finished college lived for 83.9 years.
Men saw a drop from 70.5 to 67.5 years over the same period but when you factor in education, the gap was even bigger.
The researchers found that those who finished college lived for 80.4 years respectively – 13 years more than their less educated equivalents.
Lead researcher S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that such life expectancies were on a par with those seen in America in the 1950s and 60.
And at the same time, black men and women- even if they had a poor education – saw their numbers steadily rise.
John Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, said: ‘We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling’.
The decline has caused America to shoot down the international league table of life expectancy, the New York Times reported.
According to the UN’s Human Mortality Database, American women were 14th place in 1985 but were in 41st in 2012.
Among developed countries, American women were bottom.
Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London, said that a five year decline in life expectancy was like what happened in the former Soviet Union when it broke up.
Men lived seven years less on average than they did before due to rampant alcoholism, high levels of smoking and a healthcare system that had fallen apart.
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