In 1960, life expectancy in the United States was 69.7 years compared to 43.7 years. At the turn of the century, this gap shrank from 76.8 to 71.4 years. As of 2021, life expectancy in the United States was 76.1 while life expectancy in China was 77.1, a full year ahead of the United States.
Part of the reason for China’s progress was the greater decline in life expectancy in the United States during COVID-19 (it fell from 78.8 in 2019 to 77.1 in 2021) while life expectancy in China rose (76.9 to 77.1). But COVID doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Unintended injuries” – which include opioid overdoses and motor vehicle accidents – were the second largest contributor to reduced life expectancy, accounting for 15.9% of the decline [between 2019 and 2021 in the US].
The progress that China has made in the field of health is truly remarkable. At the same time, the United States needs to better handle the “death of despair”, and adjust the curve in the positive direction.