A new study published in PLOS ONE found that people in the United States are dying more often than in other high-income countries. This is a disturbing trend that only gets worse every year. In 2021, more than 892,000 of the 3,456,000 deaths in the U.S. were “excess deaths,” which is about 1 in 4. In 2019, that number was lower at 483,000 deaths, or nearly 1 in 6. This represents an 84.9% increase in excess deaths in the U.S. from 2019 to 2021.
Excess mortality refers to the actual number of deaths that occurred in a given year compared to the expected number of deaths over the same time period based on previous years or, as in this study, in other countries. In his study, the author compared the number of deaths in the United States to the five largest countries in Western Europe: England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. These five countries make a good comparison because they are almost as rich, if not quite as rich, as the United States, and their combined populations are similar in size and diversity to those of the United States.
Why is the mortality rate in the U.S. higher than in other rich countries?
Improved living standards and medical advances in the 20th century have allowed people in wealthy countries to live longer and with a better quality of life. Given that the U.S. is the largest economic power in the world with advanced medical technology, Americans should have an advantage over other countries in terms of life expectancy and mortality rates. Over the past 50 years, however, many countries around the world have outpaced the U.S. in how fast mortality rates are declining, as evidenced by trends in life expectancy.
Life expectancy is the average age at death, and it shows how long a person will live, on average, if the current mortality rate stays the same throughout that person’s lifetime. Compared to about 20 other high-income countries since about the mid-1970s, U.S. life expectancy has fallen from about the average, or median, level of life expectancy to the lowest level. So the relative stagnation of U.S. life expectancy relative to other countries is directly related to the fact that U.S. mortality has also declined more slowly.
What could be the cause of the high mortality rate in the U.S.?
One possible reason is the higher level of violence and crime in the U.S., which leads to more murders and suicides. Also, the U.S. has higher rates of obesity, which can lead to various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Some experts also point to higher rates of drug and alcohol use in the U.S.
However, the study shows that even when all these factors are taken into account, the difference in mortality rates between the U.S. and other wealthy countries remains significant. This may be due to the fact that not everyone in the U.S. has access to quality medical care, which can lead to under-treatment of various diseases.
What can be done to reduce the mortality rate in the U.S.?
One way to improve the situation could be to improve access to quality health care for all U.S. citizens. It is also necessary to address violence and crime in the country, as well as obesity rates and drug and alcohol use.
Excess mortality in the U.S. is a disturbing trend that only gets worse every year. Although there are several factors that can explain the high mortality rate in the U.S., the difference in mortality rates between the U.S. and other wealthy countries remains significant. To improve the situation, it is necessary to improve access to quality health care for all U.S. citizens and to address violence and crime in the country, as well as obesity rates and drug and alcohol use.