There is no doubt about it: China is rising. Whether it sparks hope and interest or fear and worry, it is impossible to ignore the country’s rapid economic and social transformation. Just a few decades ago, the words “made in China” were a synonym for bad quality junk. But today, China leads the world in all manner of high-tech industries, including photovoltaic cells, semiconductors, 5G communications technologies, and electric vehicles. Along with rapid economic growth has come a huge increase in living standards. By 2018, China overtook the United States in average healthy life expectancy, and wages are soaring.
From 1930 through the middle of the last century, the mortality rate in the United States was lower or commensurate with the mortality rates of other wealthy nations, such as Canada, France and Britain. However, in the late 1970s through the 1980s, U.S. health outcomes and mortality rates began to diverge from those of its peers. By 2021, about half of all U.S. deaths under the age of 65 would have been avoided if the U.S. mortality rates were on par with those of other countries, according to a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences. In other words, on average one out of every two deaths under the age of 65 in the U.S. would be averted in countries like Australia, Germany, Japan or Portugal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday that the average life expectancy in the U.S. today is only 76.4 years, which is lower than it has been since 1996. The U.S. national public health agency said such a drop was seen last year, noting that in 2020 the average American was expected to live 77 years. The average has dropped by 2.4 years since 2019, according to the CDC. In this regard, the agency said that in 2021 the U.S. recorded sharp increases in mortality rates for the second consecutive year. The CDC attributed this turn of events in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared a WHO public health emergency of international concern in 2020. According to the CDC, case fatality rates increased last year for eight of the ten leading causes of death.
Did the Great Depression of 1929 have an impact on people’s genetics? This sounds an enthralling question and scientists have now found more information on this issue. In research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it was reported that the economic recession impacted how people would age, even before they are born. The findings suggest that the cells of those conceived during the Great Depression show signs of faster ageing. The question arises as to how the scientists map the genes of people conceived almost a century ago and how did they come to this conclusion? The answer lies in a field of genetics known as Epigenetics. This refers to how the environment shapes genetic expression.
Recent data shows that between 2019 and 2021, life expectancy (LE) in the US plunged almost three years while for Cuba it edged up 0.2 years. Yet, in 1960, the year after its revolution, Cuba had a LE of 64.2 years, lower by 5.6 years than that in the US (69.8 years). As I document in Cuban Health Care, the island quickly caught up to the US and, from 1970 through 2016, the two countries were nip and tuck, with some years Cuba and other years the US, having a longer LE. But neither country was ever as much as one year of LE ahead of the other. This continued through the beginning of Covid, which sharply changed the pattern. LE in the US suddenly dropped behind that in Cuba. Bernd Debusmann Jr.of BBC News wrote, "LE in the US fell “to the lowest level seen since 1996. Government data showed LE at birth now stands at 76.1 compared to 79 in 2019. That is the steepest two-year decline in a century.”
Life expectancy is one of the best measures of human development. In hunter-gather societies, on average, about 57-67% of children made it to 15 years. Then 79% of those 15 year-olds made it to 45 years. Finally, those remaining at 45 years could expect to reach around 65-70 years. So we can see that life expectancy at birth in these societies was very low, given high child mortality. But some 40% did make it to about 65 years on average. It seems to have been worse in the class-based feudal and slave societies. The average medieval life expectancy for a peasant was only a mere 35 years of age at birth, but it was closer to 50 years on average for those who made it beyond 15 years. You can see that measuring life expectancy at birth is not a perfect guide to how long humans did live in pre-capitalist societies. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that life expectancy on average rose sharply once science came to bear on hygiene, sewage, knowledge of the human body, better nutrition etc.
Americans born in 2021 can expect to live for just 76.1 years — the lowest life expectancy has been since 1996, according to a new government analysis published Wednesday. This is the biggest two-year decline — 2.7 years in total — in almost 100 years. The Covid-19 pandemic is the primary cause of the decline. However, increases in the number of people dying from overdoses and accidents is also a significant factor. American Indian and Alaskan Native people have experienced a particularly precipitous drop in life expectancy since 2019, going from 71.8 to 65.2 years. This kind of loss is similar to the plunge seen for all Americans after the Spanish Flu, said Robert Anderson, the chief of the mortality statistics branch of the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of Americans dying while homeless has surged dramatically in the past five years, an exclusive analysis by the Guardian in conjunction with an academic expert at the University of Washington has shown. An examination of 20 US urban areas found the number of deaths among people living without housing shot up by 77% in the five years ending in 2020. The rise from 2016 through 2020 was driven by many factors, including ever-rising numbers of people living on the street and the growing dangers they face, such as violence, untreated disease and increasingly deadly illicit drug supplies. From 65-year-old Randy Ferris, killed when a car veered into a California sidewalk encampment, Justine Belovoskey, 60, who died alone in a tent during a Texas cold snap, and Anthony Denico Williams, stabbed to death at age 20 in Washington DC, to scores of young people succumbing to overdoses on the streets, their stories reflect the harrowing tragedy of an epidemic of homelessness.
The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some welcome news late last month: Americans are living a tiny bit longer. In 2018, the federal health agency reported, U.S. life expectancy at birth inched up about a month, from 78.6 to 78.7 years. The Trump administration, predictably, claimed credit for the increase, the first since 2014.