Study Finds U.S. Population Living Longer but not Always in Good Health

The state of health in the U.S. population substantially improved from 1990 to 2010 in terms of life expectancy and all-cause mortality, including declines in premature mortality from ischemic heart disease and stroke. However, despite these declines, cardiovascular diseases continued to dominate the leading causes of premature death, according to a study, published online Aug. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study also found that chronic disability and morbidity from a variety of diseases have increased among Americans and that improvements in health in this country have not kept pace with similar improvements in health among the populations of other wealthy nations.

Drawing on data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, the study’s investigators found that life expectancy in the United States increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010 for men and women combined. The leading diseases and injuries leading to years of life lost due to premature mortality in 2010 were ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and motor vehicle injuries.

Ischemic heart disease accounted for 15.9 percent of years of life lost and stroke accounted for 4.3 percent of years of life lost. Ischemic heart disease and stroke were among the top 15 diseases and risk factors contributing to disability-adjusted life years, a sum of years of life lost and years lived with disability. Other diseases and risk factors in the top 15 were musculoskeletal disorders, lung cancer, major depressive disorder and anxiety, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and diabetes.

According to the researchers, “individuals in the United States are living longer but are not necessarily in good health. Morbidity and chronic disability now account for nearly half of the health burden in the United States.” The key conditions contributing to chronic disability are mental and behavioral disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, vision and hearing loss, anemias and neurologic disorders.

“Research and development has been much more successful at finding solutions for cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers and their associated risk factors than for these leading causes of disability,” they wrote.

Keywords: Myocardial Ischemia, Stroke, Deaf-Blind Disorders, Depressive Disorder, Major, Risk Factors, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Mortality, Premature, Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes Mellitus, Lung Neoplasms

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