The “Freedom” to Die Young: U.S. Declining Life Expectancy 

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published a paper that sounded the alarm about the rising death rates among children and teenagers. Among 1- to 19-year-olds, deaths have increased due to car crashes, homicide, suicide, and poisoning; findings were seen among all genders. Young people are dying from preventable circumstances, exposing the fact that violent conditions in the U.S. are causing people to die early. The research follows the trend of declining U.S. life expectancy. In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a spike in maternal mortality, with Black maternal deaths 2.6 times greater than whites’ maternal deaths.  

Despite vaccine rollouts, the U.S. life expectancy remains low at 76.1 years old, while other comparable countries’ average is 82.4 years old. A contributing factor is the lack of healthcare access in the U.S. Countries with similar economies have some form of universal healthcare, while U.S. healthcare, especially insurance coverage, is primarily in for-profit hands.  

The U.S. government has known about the threat of decreasing life expectancy. In a 2013 study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), named “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” experts detailed the many factors harming people’s health and provided recommendations that have helped other countries improve their population’s health. The U.S. government and NIH have failed to fund or enforce any meaningful change to reduce illness, and consequently, life expectancy continues to decline. Black people, as well as Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, are significantly impacted, with low life expectancy at 65.2 years for Blacks and 70.8 years for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.  

The decline in the U.S. population’s health and life expectancy does not come as a surprise in light of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having only four percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has had by far the most COVID deaths, about 16 percent of all the world’s COVID deaths. Why? U.S. public health resources are completely inadequate. People were forced back to work in dangerous conditions. Profit-making drug companies and insurance companies got paid off big bucks in order for healthcare to function at all. And politicians, as usual, made everyone’s health a political football, as federal and state governments facilitated the profiteering.  

Our current government and medical system have proven unwilling to address the needs of the people, so we must fight for our right to live. We need to build a system where experts provide their knowledge to the majority of people, who are mostly working-class, rather than to the One Percent.