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Q:  Mr. Pedometer, perhaps you can help solve a bet: My friend says that United States residents have the highest life expectancy of any nation in the world. I say that is not so. Which of us is correct?

A:  Sadly, you are now correct.  According to a recent article by Doyle Rice in USA Today, “In 1960, the United States had the highest life expectancy in the world. It has lost ground to other industrialized nations ever since.

“Life expectancy in the U.S. is now 1.5 years lower than a group of 35 nations known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, among others.”

The author noted that “in 2016, life expectancy in the USA was 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 years from 2015.”  That may not sound like much, but a recent report noted that this is the second year in a row for a decrease. “…The alarming story is not the amount of the decrease, but that the increase has ended,” said Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, who was the co-author of the latest report.

Woolf also said, “We are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair.”  Opioid addiction, fatal overdoses from other drugs, and a surge of deaths from alcohol and suicide are among the reasons cited for the change.

“The idea of the American dream is increasingly out of reach as social mobility declines and fewer children face a better future than their parents,” stated the article.

“The report found that Americans have poorer health than people in other nations in many areas, including birth outcomes, injuries, homicides, adolescent pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Americans also engage in unhealthy or risky behaviors – such as high-calorie intake, drug abuse, and firearms ownership – live in cities designed for cars rather than pedestrians or cyclists, have weaker social welfare supports, and lack universal health coverage, the report said.”

“The consequences of these choices are dire: not only more deaths and illnesses, but also escalating health care costs, a sicker workforce, and a less competitive economy.  Future generations may pay the greatest price,” the report concludes.