Life expectancy drops for some American women

Hey, weren't we all supposed to live longer than our parents?

Published April 24, 2008 1:44PM (EDT)

The news has been pretty grim lately. Food costs are going crazy. You have to hock your car to fill your gas tank. There's a penis theft panic in the Congo. And I'm afraid I have another log to throw on the fire: Life expectancy for some American women has dropped for the first time since 1918.

"The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county in Maine. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas."

Altogether, "19 percent of American women -- nearly 1 in 5 -- are now experiencing stagnating or falling life expectancy." That's troubling for a country where it always seemed the least you could hope for -- if nothing else -- was to live longer than your parents. I for one have always fully anticipated that life expectancy would keep climbing for every American, inching past that 100 mark until we all simply puttered out inside our cryogenic chambers at the age of 115, toothless and composed entirely of robot arms and plastic. So what happened? The article pinpoints three factors for women: smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, which have increased the number of deaths from diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema, kidney failure and heart disease. By the way, there was a small dip in life expectancy for men in some parts of the country, too, though not for nearly as many (about 4 percent). Perhaps most troubling is that this is not a global trend. It's an American trend:

"'If you look in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, we don't see this,' Murray said."

By Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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