Money can help you live longer , but it can’t keep your youth safe. America has one of the highest average incomes in the world but so many of its youth die young , that the average American would live as long in England’s least life-enhancing borough.
The Financial Times has produced a most remarkable statistic. It shows that you’re as likely to live a long healthy life in Blackpool as in the United States. This may seem a little random but it’s not. Blackpool’s morbidity and mortality rates are the lowest in England, the streams of blue lines above the red lines are all the English districts in which you are more likely to live a long and healthy life than an American. West Virginia, for all its country roads , has actually seen a decline in healthy life expectancy over the past three decades.
Money does not necessarily make for a long and healthy life.
These two graphs are fascinating. These refer to life expectancy (not healthy life expectancy) based on income and household income.
You can see how steeply it increases as you climb out of extreme poverty and how the super-rich in America and England come together at the top of the curve as those most likely to live long. But the most interesting thing is that whether you are comparing nominal income or net disposable household income, the middle American is at anything up to a 5 year disadvantage in life expectancy.
Only the yanks die young
My prejudice was that the Americans problem was that unhealthy living caught up with them in later age. This is not the case. The reason that American live shorter , less healthy life is down to what happens before they get to 40.
These young deaths are caused overwhelmingly by external causes — overdoses, gun violence, dangerous driving and such — which are deeply embedded social problems involving groups with opposing interests.
The situation in the US is complicated by the pandemic . According to the FT’s John Burn-Murdoch, who has created these amazing charts, both the UK and the US have lost ground to peer countries from Covid Deaths (the left hand chart includes the impact of Covid). But the gap between the US and its peers when you strip out the impact of Covid (the right hand chart) is extraordinary. It’s not the virus but the opiates and guns that are the USA’s great threats to life and health.
The final word should go John Burns-Murdoch.
By my calculations, Americans lost 9.4 million years of life to external causes in 2021 alone, more than the 9.1mn lost to Covid over the course of the entire pandemic. And these deaths continue to rise.
I do worry about the declining standards of journalism in the FT. The world is not two dimensional
The rise in obesity in the U.K. from 1% of the population in 1950 to 28% in 2022 might also contribute to morbidity and be a contributing factor to the NHS pressure on resources