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Past smoking rates shorten US lifespans: Study

27 January 2011 No Comment

HIGH smoking rates in the past, combined with widespread obesity, continue to chip away at US life expectancy compared to other wealthy nations, a study released on Tuesday said.

Over the past 25 years, life expectancy after 50 has risen in the United States, but at a slower rate than in countries like Japan and Australia, said the National Academy of Sciences report.

The gap sounded the alarm among government researchers because the United States spends more on health care than any other country, said the study which examined mortality records in 21 countries.

Men in the US showed an increase in life expectancy of 5.5 years between 1980 and 2006 for an average lifespan of 75.64 years, while US women’s lifespans expanded from 77.5 to 80.7 years.

‘Three to five decades ago, smoking was much more widespread in the US than in Europe or Japan, and the health consequences are still playing out in today’s mortality rates,’ said the report. ‘Smoking appears to be responsible for a good deal of the differences in life expectancy, especially for women.’

Cigarette smoking also appears to have dented life expectancy in Denmark and the Netherlands, the report said, noting those two nations showed ‘lower life expectancy trends than comparable high-income countries.’ Globally, women tended to pick up smoking later than men, and started quitting later than men, too.

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