A closeup of an old man's hands as they rest on a walking stick.

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The American life expectancy is not the longest in the world, despite some of our advanced technology. Researchers found that on average, men and women in the United States die about two years before people living in other high-income countries, including places in Europe and Asia. So what’s claiming those last two years of American lives? Gun violence, car accident, and drug overdoses or accidents.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared American death rates from 2012 with those from other countries with similar economies like the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. The study found specifically that U.S. citizens live, on average, 2.2 years fewer than people in other countries.

Andrew Fenelon, a researcher for the National Center for Health Statistics, wondered what is killing Americans more than chronic diseases. His research found that the three additional major causes of American men’s deaths—guns, cars, and drugs—are indeed reducing the nation’s life expectancy. Fenelon found that “life expectancy would rise more in the United States than in other countries—by a full year—erasing about half of the disadvantage that American men face,” said the Washington Post. 

The same statistics were true for women, though at slightly smaller rates.

The study didn’t focus on any particular age range, but it found that injury is the primary cause of death for people ages 1-44, among those injuries sustained from cars, guns, or drugs. What’s most frightening is that these particular causes of death were responsible for 48% of the gap in men’s life expectancy between the U.S. and other countries—yikes. For women, the gap was 19%.

“I was really surprised at just how large the contribution is,” said Fenelon.

These numbers were different in the 1980s, notes Ellen Meara, an associate professor of health policy and clinical practice at the Dartmouth Institute. “We compared much more favorably in life expectancy with other countries, and gradually over time they improved more than the U.S.,” she said. “We have to look to see what we are doing or have been doing differently since the 1980s—it’s not like we can’t achieve what other countries have.”

Let’s get our stuff together, everyone.

About 

Mary Summers is a recent college grad and freelance writer residing in the Pacific Northwest. She loves writing about trending topics, health and beauty advice, music, film, and television.