Here’s something that not too many people are talking about: Life expectancy in the USA is declining. The average life expectancy in the US has gone from a peak of 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 in 2017.

Further, the decline isn’t because old folks aren’t getting as old. It’s because people are dying in their primes.

It was recently reported that mortality rates among Americans age 25-64 are increasing. This was reported in a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, which tells of a workforce plagued by drug overdoses, suicides and organ-system diseases while grappling with economic stresses. It happens in all racial backgrounds, and despite the USA being #1 in per-capita spending on healthcare among the 17 wealthiest countries.

To compare US life expectancy with other countries, Japan’s is 84.1, France’s 82.4 and Canada’s 81.9. They left the U.S. behind in the 1980s and increased the distance as the rate of progress in this country diminished and eventually halted in 2011.

What is the cause? 

It’s impossible to blame one hot-button issue like gun control, universal healthcare or the opioid epidemic. The study found increases in death rates across 35 causes of death. Some of those findings include:

  • Between 1999 and 2017, midlife mortality from drug overdoses spiked by 386.5%.
  • In that same age group and time period, deaths from hypertensive diseases increased by 78.9%.
  • Deaths linked to obesity increased by 114%.
  • Suicides rose by 38% and climbed 55.9% among those ages 55-64.

This is troubling for the country that leads the world in Gross Domestic Product.

The researchers theorize that factors including a lack of educational opportunities and living wages among the likely causes, will require investment from the public and private sectors to address. 

What can we do?

I have these 3 ideas.

Build Community

We can let the feeling that we are alone in whatever situation is dominating our world. Being one that uses the Bible to set standards, I think of passages such as, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind” (1 Corinthians 10:13) and “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). We must seek out those that have been through what we’re going through. We also must seek out those who have the same goals and objectives that we have.

Seek Alternatives

The older I get, the less I trust US doctors. I think too many of them just prescribe addictive opioids as a reflex reaction to almost any problem a patient presents. The kickbacks must be impressive. There is a lot of research available on less-popular medical treatments. If we’re truly disgusted by Big Pharma, we have to hit them where it hurts – the income statement. We can also combine this with the previous point in seeking community with people who have beaten back addiction to drugs, alcohol, or food, so we can reduce obesity in addition to substance abuse.

Gain Perspective 

I suspect many workaholics feel pressure to accumulate as much (or greater) material wealth as everyone else. Most  media implies that anyone who doesn’t keep up with everyone else in this race is a failure and a disgrace to their loved ones. My wife and I have been watching this old series Deadly Sins. Here, people are overtaken by greed, jealousy, lust and other issues. They eventually commit terrible crimes. Greed has seemed to turn up most often. Some people can’t stand the notion that anyone should ever have more stuff than them. “I MUST HAVE THE MOST!” screams from every word and action. While the vast majority of us would never go to those extremes, there is ample evidence that for too many people, what they have is not enough, that they MUST have more. We need to push back against this.

Counter an old cliche 

When someone says, “he who dies with the most toys wins,” we should counter it. “He who dies with the most toys is still dead.” What good is having the most toys if you are dead and can’t enjoy them? Here in the holiday season, we can do good for ourselves and our loved ones. Enjoy what we have, proceed smartly with goals to upgrade, and cherish our relationships.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share in the comments.

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