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Home > Global Health Matters Mar/Apr 2024 > Aging institute to fund research on disparity in life expectancy between US, other nations Print

Aging institute to fund research on disparity in life expectancy between US, other nations

March/April 2024 | Volume 23 Number 2

A compilation of five photos of elderly people from around the world Images courtesy National Institute on Aging, Africa Knows, ThinkStock, and U.S. Airforce

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has issued a notice of special interest (NOSI) on research that examines worsening life expectancies in the U.S. compared to other countries. NIA aims to support projects that examine cross-national and U.S. cross-regional or cross-state differences that may drive poor health outcomes. Projects focusing on other high-income countries as well low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are welcomed. In fact, research from LMICs is encouraged as these countries often have greater variation and speed of change in policies compared to high-income countries.

After peaking in 2015, life expectancy in the U.S. declined one full year to 78 years of age in 2021. People in many other countries, including those with lower per capita income, live longer than U.S. residents. “We now have four countries in Latin America that match or exceed U.S. life expectancy with a fraction of our income," according to Atul Gawande,  Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID, who spoke about the issue at a recent Fogarty Advisory Board meeting.

Like income, money spent on health care has not proven to be an indicator of longer life in the U.S., the country which spends more on health care than any other nation in the world per the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Gawande pointed out that Thailand “matched U.S. life expectancy several years ago at a $2,000 per person per year health cost compared to our $13,000 dollars per year."

A 2021 report led by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) identified three top causes of death that are higher in the U.S. compared to other countries: substance use, increasing rates of suicide, and poor cardiovascular health. The notice from NIA encourages research that investigates the factors leading to death, disease, and disability uncovered by this report. In particular, NIA hopes to stimulate research into differences in social and environmental factors at the country, region, and/or state level.

At that same Boad meeting, NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli remarked, “We can point a lot of fingers, but we are researchers. We are scientists. We want to look for the real answers with rigorous research."

NIA is holding an application webinar about the NOSI on June 18, 2024. Registration for the webinar is now open.

More Information

Updated April 16, 2024

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