Accounting for more than 100,000 deaths per year, automobile crashes, shootings and drug poisonings are major contributors to the lower life expectancy for U.S. men and women.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the gap in life expectancy between the United States and 12 comparable countries.
According to the study, U.S. men had a life expectancy of 76.4 years in 2012, while the expectancy for men in the comparison countries was 2.2 years higher at 78.6 years. For women, the gap was similar with U.S. women living to 81.2 years compared to 83.4 years in other countries.
Researchers found that nearly half of the life expectancy gap for men was due to injury death, specifically firearm-related injuries (21 percent of the gap), drug poisonings (14 percent) and motor vehicle traffic crashes (13 percent). For women, these same causes accounted for 19 percent, or 0.42 years, of the gap in life expectancy.
“People may immediately think of obesity as the leading contributor to higher death rates in the U.S.,” says Dr. Timothy Buffey, a family medicine physician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “A healthy weight is important but we have to look at the whole picture when working with patients and seeing how we can partner to increase the quality and longevity of their life.”
According the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the life expectancy for an American man increased more than 6 percent between 1990 and 2013. For U.S. women, the increase was more than 3 percent.
In addition, accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease, reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.