For the first time since the Spanish influenza of 1918, life expectancy is falling for a significant number of American women. In nearly 1,000 counties that together are home to about 12 percent of the nation’s women, life expectancy is now shorter than it was in the early 1980s, according to a study published today.
The trend appears to be driven by increases in death from diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema and kidney failure. It reflects the long-term consequences of smoking, a habit that women took up in large numbers decades after men did, and the slowing of the historic decline in heart disease deaths.
Washington Post staff writer David Brown and Majid Ezzati, co-author of the study and researcher at the Harvard Global Health Initiative, were online Tuesday, April 22, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the study.
A transcript follows.
The sad thing is that most of these causes stem from preventable things. I remember a medical school lecture that I heard last year that said that in order to combat our nation’s growing obesity problem we as the medical community should treat obesity as a disease. For the current picture of the trend to obesity in the United States, I direct you to the CDC data from 1985-2006. And this site took that CDC data and made it into an animated GIF showing obesity rates over time. According to the CDC data, “In 2006, only four states had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Twenty-two states had a prevalence equal or greater than 25%; two of these states (Mississippi and West Virginia) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%.”
If one of the national health objectives for the year 2010 is to reduce the prevalence of obesity among adults to less than 15%, we have a long way to go.