The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released preliminary data showing that American life expectancy is at an all-time high and continues to climb. Children born in 2009 will have an average life span of approximately 78 years and 2 months. That’s 2 months more than children born in 2008 and 14 – 18 years longer than children born during the 1930s. In addition, the U.S. death rate is at a record low. This in part reflects that deaths are lower for a range of medical conditions like diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.
There are several factors involved in the change in American longevity. In the past decades, medical treatments have become more and more advanced. While there are still not cures for every ailment, we have gotten better at slowing down the progression of many diseases.
America has also become more conscious of the importance of health exams and requiring children to receive vaccinations before entering school. Even Americans’ personal lives have gotten healthier. People now realize that it’s not healthy to smoke or drink heavily. It’s now en vogue to shop at grocery stores that offer organic and low fat options. People actually know what a trans-fat is and that it should be avoided.
Of course, not all Americans are applying their improved health information. Obesity is an ever increasing problem among the U.S. population. Even the elderly are heavier than they used to be. Part of the problem is that the body’s metabolism slows as it ages and muscle mass decreases. It also doesn’t help that people are heavier before they even enter late life. As life expectancy increases, it will become ever more important that people eat healthy throughout life and exercise regularly. Binge diets don’t work as well once you’re pushing 60.
Other obstacles the next generation of elderly Americans can expect are increased retirement costs. If you retire when you’re 65 and live to be 78, you’re going to have to live on your savings for 13 years. That’s a significant amount of money. It’s also likely that as people age, more health issues will arise that aren’t seen as frequently now in the health community. This could lead to health insurance being even more costly and harder to acquire than it is currently. Young Americans should look closely at the health care reforms that are coming from Washington and make sure that their health insurance is not only good for their immediate needs but also for their retirement years.
But there is also much to look forward to with a longer life expectancy. People may now be able to see grandchildren grow up and maybe even meet their great grandchildren. There will be less pressure to get married and have children right after school. With great academics and scientists able to stay in the field longer, there will be greater strides in development and discoveries. People will have longer to acquire and pass on their wisdom. And, most importantly, more years of retirement means that more of the elderly will be able to get involved in their community. I have seen in my own community that no one is able to research political, social or economic issues like the retired population. They do a great job of keeping an eye on anyone who tries to harm future generations. So politicians, corporations, banks and insurers had better keep an eye out.
Angela Haupt. ” Health Buzz: U.S. Life Expectancy Hits All-Time High “, U.S. News & World Report LP.