In 1980, average life expectancy at birth was similar in the U.S. and in comparable countries. However, while the U.S. gained 5 years of life expectancy in the subsequent decades, the average comparable country has gained 7 years. This chart collection examines how life expectancy in the U.S. compares to similar countries (those with similarly large GDP and high average income).
The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy at birth among comparable countries
Life expectancy at birth in the U.S is lower than comparable countries. In 2015, U.S. life expectancy was 78.8 years, compared to an average of 82.0 years for comparable 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. has seen slower growth in life expectancy than comparable countries
The U.S. and comparable countries once had similar life expectancies – in 1980, average life expectancy at birth was with one year in the U.S. and in comparable countries. However, while the U.S. gained 5 years of life expectancy in the subsequent decades, the average comparable country has gained 7 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 countries. However, for both men and women, the U.S. ranks as the lowest life expectancy at birth among large and wealthy countries.
Life expectancy for both men and women has increased slower in the U.S. than in comparable countries
Since 1980, life expectancy at birth for men has increased by 6 years in the U.S. and 9 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 7 years in comparable countries on average.
The difference in life expectancy at birth between women and men has decreased steadily
The life expectancy gap between women and men has narrowed over time in both the U.S. and comparable countries.
The disparity in life expectancy between the U.S. and comparable countries continues at older ages
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 is less pronounced – at older ages.