By William M. Dowd
The latest studies of the American population tell us at least three things.
(1.) We are getting fatter.
(2.) We are getting shorter.
(3.) We are living longer.
That evokes an image of little old roly-poly people riding around in erratically-driven cars with their turn signals on at all times.
Of course, a moment’s thought will tell you the “why” of the first two items.
(1.) As more and more Asians and Latinos — historically shorter than European-stock Caucasians who form the bulk of our population — come here or are born here to immigrant parents, the height of the “average American” statistically has to shrink.
(2.) The obesity epidemic in the U.S. has been quantified by study after study and linked to our obsession with fast-food and sugar-laced beverages.
That leads us to the life epectancy thing. We’ve now hit nearly 78 years, the longest in U.S. history, according to government figures just released. And that study only runs through 2005.
For those in relatively good health — physically and economically — a longer lifespan is a good thing. But don’t get cocky about our way of life. There are literally dozens of other countries with longer lifespans despite all our medical and technological genius.
We’re keeling over less from heart disease and strokes, but the annual number of U.S. deaths rose from 2004 to 2005, says the National Center for Health Statistics which released the numbers today. Plus, our infant mortality rate went up a tick, from 6.8 per 1,000 live births to 6.9. The NCHS says that’s insignificant. Not to the people affected, I suspect.
A few other tidbits from numbers broken down into race and gender comparing ’05 to the prior year:
Life expectancy for whites remained at 78.3. For blacks it rose to 73.2, up one-tenth.
Life expectancy for women continues to be five years longer than for men.
Deaths attributed to heart disease dropped from 217 per 100,000 to 210; and, for stroke, from 50 per 100,000 to 46.5.
Deaths attributed to both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease rose 5% each.
We continue to lag behind about 40 nations in lifespan. The longest is found in Andorra, a teeny-tiny country tucked into the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, where they live on average to age 83.5.
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