Life Expectancy in the United States

One of the most common refrains I hear when I’m trying to put conventional medicine in a realistic perspective is an enthusiastic, “Well, life expectancy is up, isn’t it?!”

Even if this sadly worn illusion were true, it says nothing about the quality of life citizens experience in this country. That, too, is nothing to brag about. If you’re interested in reading more about the issue of quality in contemporary health care, you may wish to read “Defining Good Health” at

But the life expectancy dream is pure fiction — by any official account. In 1999 the World Health Organization placed the United States 24th in life expectancy. A new study shows the United States now ranks 49th in the world. That’s a pretty precipitous slide in a decade, and with the amount of money we spend on ‘health care’, it’s pretty embarrassing. The U.S. media have totally ignored this revealing new study by Columbia University health policy professors Peter A. Muennig and Sherry A. Glied, which places not just U.S. life expectancy, but conventional medicine in a dim and fading light.

In 1950, the United States was fifth among the leading industrialized nations with respect to female life expectancy at birth, surpassed only by Sweden, Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands. The last available measure of female life expectancy had the United States ranked at forty-sixth in the world. As of September 23, 2010, the United States ranked forty-ninth for both male and female life expectancy combined.

Published in the academic journal Health Affairs, the authors of this study sampled multiple perspectives in an exhaustive attempt to find validity in commonly expressed ‘explanations’ for such a poor statistical showing. But from any angle these rationales simply don’t hold water. Conventional, allopathic medicine dwarfed even diet and lifestyle as the most high profile culprit of our condition.

In their conclusions, which found an ironic direct correlation between rapidly rising health care costs and declining “survival rates”, Muennig and Glied used a phrase which caught my eye. “…unneeded procedures and fragmentation of care.” I can’t imagine a more succinct paraphrase of American medicine.

For me, the pieces of this puzzle assemble to create the image of a health care system which knows nothing about health, quietly accepted by a cultural and corporate greed which is likely to bring us to our knees unless people wake up. Unfortunately, all I can hear from the masses is snoring. And somnolence is precisely what Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Medicine mutually promote.

The Columbia study may be read in its entirety here. Its observations and conclusions may startle many readers. One media account can be found at The Raw Story.