US CDC logoIt’s hidden in the guts of this new report (pdf link), but the news seems significant to me:  the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its estimates of US lifespans downward by 5 or 6 months.  Previously, the agency had reported that a baby born in 2005 could expect to live to the age of 77.9 years.  Later, it revised that figure down to 77.8 years.  Now, the 2005 figure has been revised downward (spreadsheet link) yet again, to 77.4 years.

Still, there’s some good news:  since 1998, life spans in the U.S. have lengthened by about a year!  That’s pretty good, right?  Well, not compared with the rest of the developed world.  Canadians’ life spans grew twice as fast as the same period.  Japan’s grew by 1.8 years.  These places started out healthier than America, and they’ve only extended their lead.

So the real news isn’t that Americans are living longer lives—that’s a dog-bites-man story, since it’s true in most of the world.  Instead, the curious thing is how slowly US life spans are growing—a sign that we’re not nearly as healthy as we could be, especially given all the money we spend on health care.