By the Deathbed

Obesity Peeling a Year Away from U.S. Life Expectancy

American lives have grown shorter for the second year in a row. When CDC issued these statistics in December, all the talk was about drug overdoses. That’s certainly a factor. But a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points to growing obesity rates for peeling away nearly a year from U.S. life expectancy.

Declining life expectancy for two consecutive years is a big deal. The last time that happened was in 1963, when the flu claimed an unusually high number of lives. At the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1993, the U.S. saw a one-year drop in life expectancy.

Offsetting Gains from Success with Smoking

To make this estimate, Samuel Preston, Andrew Stokes, and Yana Vierboom used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) as early as 1988 through 2010. Their dataset included 25,269 adults between the ages of 40 and 79. NHANES linked mortality files included follow-up into death records through 2011.

Reflecting on what they found, Preston remarked:

Smoking is such an important variable in mortality analysis, and U.S. mortality is improving faster than it otherwise would because of reductions in smoking, but it’s not improving fast enough to offset the effect of obesity.

When obesity is having this large an impact on the national level of vital statistics, it puts the spotlight on the importance of stopping and reversing the rise in obesity.

Click here for more from the University of Pennsylvania, here for more from Time, and here for the study itself. For prior observations on this subject from ConscienHealth, click here.

By the Deathbed, painting by Edvard Munch / WikiArt

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January 16, 2018