In some parts of the United States, men and women are dying younger on average than their counterparts in nations such as Syria, Panama and Vietnam.
In 737 U.S. counties out of more than 3,000, life expectancies for women declined between 1997 and 2007. For life expectancy to decline in a developed nation is rare. Setbacks on this scale have not been seen in the U.S. since the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, according to demographers.
The grim trend is fueled largely by smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, according to Murray and other population health experts.
The number of Americans who are classified as obese hit 34% in 2010, more than double the rate in 1980.
By contrast, Americans in affluent counties near Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere have among the longest life expectancies in the world, outpacing even international leaders such as Japan and Switzerland.
This may be evidence of what demographers and public health officials call the "Hispanic paradox," a long recognized phenomenon in which Latino immigrants are generally healthier than non-Latinos of similar income.
One explanation of that phenomenon is that the people who become immigrants tend to be healthy. "These are not random people. They are the healthiest people who could get here," said Carmen Nevarez, former president of the American Public Health Assn.I wonder why male life expectancy has not follow the same trend.