The United States suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation, due in part to the widespread possession of firearms and the practice of storing them at home in a place that often is unlocked, according to a report released Wednesday by two of the nation’s leading health-research institutions.
Gun violence is just one of many factors contributing to lower U.S. life expectancy, but the finding took on urgency because the report comes less than a month after the shooting deaths of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents. None of the 16 other countries included in the review came anywhere close to that ratio. Finland was closest to the U.S. ranking with slightly more than two violent deaths per 100,000 residents.
For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other wealthy countries. In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. The U.S. also suffers higher rates of drug-related deaths, infant mortality and AIDS.
The result is that the life expectancy for men in the United States ranked the lowest among the 17 countries reviewed, at 75.6 years, while the life expectancy for U.S. women ranked second-lowest at 80.7 years. The countries reviewed included Canada, Japan, Australia and much of Western Europe.
The U.S. long has lagged in life expectancy compared with other economically developed nations. In this study, researchers culled existing studies to examine why. Most statistics in the report are from the late 1990s through 2008. The report found that U.S. health disadvantages aren’t limited to the poor and uninsured. Even white, college- educated and wealthier Americans tend to be in worse health than their peers in other developed countries.