American Women Dying Younger Than Their Moms?

Posted by – October 9, 2013

This is upsetting but important reading: American women are dying at younger ages than their mothers.

For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.

“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”

Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.

No one knows why.

Worse yet is this:

Other researchers have pointed out the correlation between education rates and declining female health outcomes. The most shocking study, published in August 2012 by the journal Health Affairs, found that life expectancy for white female high-school dropouts has fallen dramatically over the past 18 years. These women are now expected to die five years earlier than the generation before them—a radical decline that is virtually unheard of in the world of modern medicine. In fact, the only parallel is the spike in Russian male mortality after the fall of the Soviet Union, which has primarily been attributed to rising alcohol consumption and accidental death rates.

“It’s unprecedented in American history to see a drop in life expectancy of such magnitude over such a short time period,” said Jay Olshansky, the lead author of the study. “I don’t know why it happened so rapidly among this subgroup. Something is different for the lives of poor people today that is worse than it was before.”

It’s horrifying that this is the case in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but yes, let’s shut down the government because poor women need pap smears.

2 Comments on American Women Dying Younger Than Their Moms?

  1. JennL says:

    In 1913 the life expectancy was about 50 years. Since then we saw a lengthy period of improvement in that number and now a decline is appearing. The improvement was tightly linked and very sensitive to changes in GDP/ capita. What has been happening the past 18 years to GDP/capita?

    Over the same period of time, we have seen a greater and greater percentage of ever declining incomes going out to debt service and increased prices for basic necessities like rents, food and utility expenses etc. The amount left after paying for these items declines the lower the income. Women today lacking a post secondary education are likely to find themselves at the very bottom income levels and see declines in their living standard occurring day to day now.

    An even more sensitive predictor of life expectancy is mental health. Poor mental health that can follow the stress of poor socio-economic conditions can shave up to 25 years off a life.

    The completely unnecessary decline in real incomes are undoubtedly part of the reason for this phenomenon. With the state of politics as it is there isn’t much hope of change for the better any time soon. There is no real underlying reason outside of politically governed distributional priorities for the decent into to poverty seen in the world today.

  2. helenboyd says:

    thank you, Jenn. & no, there is no real reason, & no good one, either.

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