Two trends stand out in new projections of life expectancy in developed countries released last week by the Lancet: The United States, with large income inequalities and a host of other social issues that affect health, is falling farther behind most other wealthy nations. From 2010 to 2030 it will experience among the smallest increases in life expectancy for women (up 2.1 years to age 83.3) and men (up 3 years to age 79.5). Both are the fourth-smallest increases among the 35 nations studied.
South Korea, which has systematically worked to improve living conditions across social classes, according to the researchers, is poised to reach 90.8 years average life expectancy for females by 2030, both the highest in the developed world and the biggest jump from 2010. Male life expectancy (84.1) would be the highest as well. Next-highest in 2030 for women is France (88.6) and Japan (88.4); for men it is Australia and Switzerland (both 84).
The expected gains in South Korea are likely due to broad-based improvements in residents’ financial status, education, nutrition, and access to both primary care and new medical technologies, the researchers wrote.
By contrast, countries with the smallest increases in life expectancy tended to have the most social inequality, with the worst-off groups pulling down the average. Previous studies using different methods, for example, have found life expectancy in Philadelphia lags several years behind the surrounding suburban counties.