For the first time since 1918, following the outbreak of Spanish Flu Pandemic, life expectancy for a significant number of Americans is in decline. Although life span has generally increased since 1961, the authors reported, it began to level off or even decline in the 1980s for 4 percent of men and 19 percent of women .In close to 1,000 counties, home to apprximately 12 percent of the nation's women, life expectancy is now shorter than it was in the early 1980s, according to a study published today.
The trend is attributable to a leveling in gains from cardiac disease and an increase in deaths from diabetes, lung cancer, hypertension, emphysema and kidney failure. The reduction in male life spans was influenced by the incidence of HIV and homicide.
Socio-economic factors certainly play a role. Behaviors commonly exhibited by less educated and less prosperous people including smoking, alcohol excess, poor diet, lack of exercise, and a generally lower regard for future health results in premature death.
The counties exhibiting significant declines in life expectancy were concentrated in Appalachia, the Southeast, Texas, the southern Midwest and along the Mississippi River. Life expectancy increases were concentrated primarily in counties in Northeast and on the Pacific Coast.
What can be done?
Education is first and foremost;
Intensify preventive medicine efforts in the worst-off counties;
Utilize evidence-based medicine;
Actively discourage smoking;
Actively reduce alcohol consumption and drug abuse;
Encourage better nutrition and exercise;
Increase the quality and availability of sex education; and
Intensify chronic disease management with an emphasis of obesity, hyper-tension and diabetes.
For the complete report, visit PLoS.