Recent studies show that the expected life span of women across the United States has decreased over the past 20 years. In addition, another trend indicates that women’s life spans are improving at a slower rate than men’s, suggesting that if we do not do a better job educating women about good health care, the expected life span for women will drastically decrease over the next few decades.
Although women are still expected to outlive men by four years, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the statistics of this new trend in women’s health are quite startling. The study of mortality rates of each sex in different counties in the U.S. concluded that the life expectancy for women has improved by only 2.7 years. Men’s life expectancy, on the other hand, has improved by 4.6 years. One county, Harmon County in Oklahoma, has seen a frightening two-year drop in the life expectancy of women.
Physician Gina Lundberg, national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, has her own theory of what’s going on.
“Women aren’t as encouraged by their doctors to get medication to ward off heart disease,” she told USA Today. “Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that heart disease is known to be more common in men than it is in women.”
According to Dr. Lynda E. Rosenfeld in the Yale University School of Medicine Heart Book, “Heart attack is almost unheard of in young women, and in the age group 45 to 54, six times as many men as women have heart attacks.”
These statistics may make doctors react with more alarm when they hear of male patients having symptoms of heart disease. Women, on the other hand, are not treated as aggressively—despite the fact that women are at a greater risk to have heart attacks from smoking. To make matter worse, Dr. Rosenfeld also revealed that researchers are less likely to conduct heart attack studies on middle-aged women.
Unfortunately, there may be an even more disappointing truth behind the decrease in women’s life expectancy. As Ali Mokdad, the director of the research team who conducted these studies, stated, “The U.S spends more on health care than any other country, and other countries are doing a better job than us.”
The perfect example of this is Australia, where the life expectancy for both men and women has improved by 12 years. What’s one of the biggest differences between health care in Australia and health care here in America? In Australia, everyone has health insurance. That’s serious food for thought for U.S. policymakers—at least for those who care about the life and health of American women.