The new study finds that excess mortality among Americans younger than 50 accounted for two-thirds of the gap in life expectancy at birth between American males and their counterparts and two-fifths between females and their counterparts in the comparison countries.
Most of the excess mortality of those younger than 50 was caused by noncommunicable diseases, including perinatal conditions, such as pregnancy complications and birth trauma, homicide, and unintentional injuries including drug overdose, which Ho says is a striking finding of the study.
“These deaths have flown under the radar until recently,” Ho says. “This study shows that they are an important factor in our life expectancy shortfall relative to other countries.”
She points out that the majority of the drug overdose deaths stemmed from prescription drug use.
Ho says her study underscores the importance of focusing on policies to prevent the major causes of deaths below age 50 and to reduce the social inequalities that lead to them.It is no surprise, of course, that her dissertation committee includes Samuel Preston, who quite literally wrote the book on how different causes of death shape a nation's life expectancy. Most recently, he was part of the National Research Council committee that published an important report on "U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health."
Ho's contribution is incredibly important, but we still have that other one-third of the life expectancy gap to explain...