Overweight Americans, Obesity? Life expectancy in America has gone down for the first time in over 20 years, but what is behind the decrease? With the amount of money we spend on healthcare we should live forever at this point, but that’s just not turning out to be the case. Back in 1992 life expectancy experienced a major decrease because of the AIDS epidemic, the flu epidemic, homicide, and accidental deaths. The medical problems facing the population today are still similar, though there have been some sharp increases in things that were once on the decline.
Heart disease is once again on the rise, causing four times as many deaths as the rest of the leading causes. Despite advances in cancer treatment cancer deaths are also on the rise. But what’s most disturbing is the increase in accidental deaths related to opioid use and abuse. Twenty years ago almost no one went home from the hospital with a prescription for opioids. Today if you stub your toe it seems to be the first line of treatment. This is leading to addiction, abuse, and eventually heroin use and subsequent overdose deaths. In 2014 alone nearly 30,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses.
Obesity is another major factor in the rise in related diseases and deaths, contributing to 10% of American deaths. A third of Americans are now obese, more than in any other generation before. Being 40 pounds overweight can cut 3 years off your life expectancy, while being 100 pounds overweight can cut a full decade off your life expectancy. In fact, the United States is a world leader in obesity, likely because nearly 60% of the calories we consume come from ultra-processed and fast foods, while only 30% come from fresh foods.