Monday, January 2, 2012

Living Longer in NYC

Welcome to 2012. We ended 2011 with the good news that NYC residents are living longer.

Life Expectancy Trends

Life expectancy in the United States has been on the rise for many decades, but it remains far behind other wealthy nations. The US life expectancy stands at 78 years, more than 5 years less than Japan and far behind Israel, Singapore, and many other countries. In fact, the United States ranks 36th in the world in terms of life expectancy.

The low level of life expectancy in the US is both a legacy of the US population's love of cigarettes and the current high rates of obesity. 

The National Research Council (NRC) found that the primary reasons for the United States' inferior level of life expectancy were smoking, overeating, and lack of exercise.
When today's senior citizens were younger, Americans used to smoke more than people in other rich countries. This accounts for about 40 per cent of the lag in life expectancy for US men - and almost 80 per cent for US women. Obesity is the next most important factor, accounting for between one-fifth and one-third of the US shortfall in life expectancy. While poor access to healthcare sends some Americans to an early grave, its effects pale beside the damage caused by unhealthy lifestyles.
Nonetheless, as the United States loses ground to other nations, the life expectancy numbers in the United States continue to grow. In 1900, life expectancy in the United States was less than 50 years. By 1991, our life expectancy surpassed 75 years, increasing by more than 50% in less than 100 years. The recessions, wars, and other challenges we've faced since 1991 have not reversed the upwards trend.

NYC Life Expectancy

The good news that closed out 2011 was that NYC's life expectancy figures rose dramatically over the last 10 years. The increase is three years of life expectancy since 2000, and now, the NYC figure stands at 80.6 years versus the United States overall figure of 78.2 years. While our city was leaping beyond the national average, the Mayor of NYC was focusing on reducing smoking, providing consumers with more information regarding their restaurant food choices, and promoting healthier lifestyles. The Mayor's initiatives have had a positive impact, even if other factors have played a larger role.
Life expectancy for 40-year-olds in the city also increased, to 82 years in 2009 from 79.5 years in 2000, a gain of 2.5 years, compared with an increase of 1.2 years for the same age group nationwide. New Yorkers who are 70 saw their life expectancy increase 1.5 years, to 86.9, compared with 0.7 years, to 85.1, for the same age group nationwide.

Mr. Bloomberg has made public health one of his top policy priorities and has run high-profile campaigns against smoking, obesity and the consumption of salt.
The biggest factor in New Yorkers’ increased life expectancy, however, was unrelated to any of those efforts. Instead, officials attributed it to expanded H.I.V. testing and treatment, which resulted in a substantially reduced death rate from H.I.V. and AIDS. The mortality rate from H.I.V. infection in 2010 fell by 11.3 percent since 2009, and by 51.9 percent since 2002.
We have been very critical of the Mayor's obsession with skin color as his primary (perhaps only) organizing principal in his law enforcement efforts, but we start 2012 by giving the Mayor credit for a job well done with regard to his efforts to improve the level of overall health in our city.

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