The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy at birth among OECD comparable countries
Life expectancy at birth in the U.S is lower than comparable OECD countries (countries with above median total GDP and GDP per capita for at least one of the past ten years). In 2011, U.S. life expectancy was just under 79 years, compared to an average of about 82 years for comparable OECD countries. Life expectancy can be influenced by a number of factors, including those within the domain of the healthcare system (e.g., quality of care, access to preventive health services) as well factors largely outside the control of the health system (e.g. lifestyle, diet, violence and accidents).
The U.S. and comparable OECD countries once had similar life expectancies – in 1980, life expectancy at birth was 74 years in both the U.S. and in comparable OECD countries on average. However, while the U.S. has gained 5 years of life expectancy, comparable OECD countries gained 8 years.
The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy at birth for both women and men
As is the case in the U.S., women tend to live longer than men in comparable OECD countries. However, for both men and women, the U.S. ranks as the lowest life expectancy at birth among large and wealthy OECD countries.
Since 1980, life expectancy at birth for men has increased by 6 years in the U.S. and 8 years in comparable countries. Women in the U.S. have seen slower improvement, gaining 4 years of life expectancy at birth since 1980, compared to 6 years in comparable countries on average.
The gap in life expectancy between men and women has narrowed somewhat over time in both the U.S. and comparable OECD countries.
As most people start to interact with the healthcare system more regularly as they get older, measuring life expectancy at older ages may provide a better sense of how well the system performs (though it is still influenced by how healthy people are when they reach older ages). The disparity between the U.S. and comparable countries continues – though it is less pronounced – at older ages.