Life expectancy in the United States declined for the second straight year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the other day, in large part due to rising opioid, heroin, and other drug-overdose deaths.
What the headlines generally didn’t reveal is that life expectancy for women did not fall. Virtually all of the decrease was due to men dying earlier. Five months earlier than just two years before!
The average American man lives just over 76 years, compared to 81 years for women. A century ago, the difference was just one year. In Japan and Hong Kong, men live a full five years longer than their American counterparts, on average. The U.S. is unique among rich, developed countries in seeing its men’s lives grow shorter.
The reasons are complex and no one entirely knows why this is happening. But we do know a few things: Our health-care system needs to be more equitable and less expensive. And, while research on women’s health deservedly receives considerable funding, much more needs to be invested in research on men’s health.