Life expectancy at a record high…for now. Here’s why I’m not jumping for joy

Why do you build me up, buttercup, just to let me down?

I just came across a news item that called to mind the lyrics of this golden oldie from The Foundations.

A study done by the “almighty”  CDC, noted that life expectancy in the U.S. is at a record high.

Stop the presses! The mystery of longevity has been solved! Well, not exactly… it only moved up from 78.7 to 78.8.

Yes, we can claim a “record” title here, but it’s hardly an earth-shaking statistic. And we’re still a pitiful #33 in the world in life expectancy—behind Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Israel, the UK, Canada… need me to go on

Something else that’s not so exciting: These rates are “the average number of years that a group of infants would live if [it experienced] the age-specific death rates present in the year of birth.”

Here’s the problem with that theory: It doesn’t factor in the meteoric rise of childhood obesity, and the devastating effects it will have. Oops, guess they forgot! One study even noted that, because of the childhood obesity epidemic, babies born recently will be the first generation to lead shorter lives than their parents. Sad.

So, while it’s fine to be encouraged by increasing life expectancy, don’t be fooled by the CDC’s breathless trumpet call. And don’t be lulled into complacency. Keep your eye on nutrition—and keep feeding your kids (and grandkids) well.


“U.S. life expectancy hits record high,” WebMD, 8/10/14 (

“A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century,” New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352(11): 1,138-1,145.