If this is American exceptionalism, we don't want any.
According to sobering new numbers, we are living shorter lives than our peers in other wealthy countries.
Thanks to a witches’ brew of poor behavior and bad policy, we are driving ourselves to early graves, with unhealthy diets, drug addiction, a lack of exercise, an obsession with guns and a bloated and inefficient health care system ... among other issues.
Average life expectancy in the United States has dropped for a second consecutive year, to 76 years, even as other countries saw life expectancy rise after the development of COVID vaccines during the second year of the pandemic.
There’s more worrisome news.
A paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association notes rising mortality rates among U.S. children and adolescents.
People are also reading…
"This is the first time in my career that I've ever seen (an increase in pediatric mortality) — it's always been declining in the United States for as long as I can remember," the JAMA paper's lead author, Steven Woolf, M.D., told NPR. "Now, it's increasing at a magnitude that has not occurred at least for half a century."
And the results of a new study Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in U.S. history. America’s rate of 32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births was more than a staggering 10 times the rates in Austria, Israel, Japan and Spain.
We are, in a sense, an endangered species whose pain too often is self-inflicted.
For the most recent example, look no further than the latest school shooting, this time in Nashville, Tenn.
Armed with two assault-style weapons and a handgun, a 28-year-old killed six people, including three 9-year-olds, Monday morning at a private Christian elementary school, before being killed by police. It was the 89th shooting in a K-12 school in the United States in 2023, and the 129th mass shooting.
Watch and wait as nothing happens in Congress in response to it.
And bear in mind as our leaders sit on their hands that the only casualties weren't the people who were killed.
What about the survivors? Rachael Anne Elrod, the Metro Nashville School Board chair, wondered out loud Monday. And what if you're a parent?
“They are mostly figuring out how they are going to talk to their children going forward about this,” Elrod told The New York Times. “What is the next best step? What should they do next? Do we take them to get ice cream? Take them to the playground? Do we ask them what they saw? Do we not ask them what they saw? Do we bring them to school tomorrow? Is there school tomorrow?”
In a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. parents said they are concerned that a shooting could occur at their children’s school. But, as USA Today reported this week, an even greater danger lurks at home.
Between 2017 and 2022, at least 866 young people were shot in domestic violence incidents; 621 of them died. In fact, three times more children were shot at home as in school and eight times as many lost their lives.
This may seem like too much bad news to swallow in one bite. But wishing won’t make it go away.
Only acting will. And it is well within our power to change our self-destructive mood. If we choose.
Federal studies of habits and policies that distinguish us from other countries would help. (We already know gun violence sets us apart.)
As for the rest of us?
We should demand a more accessible and less onerous health care system (if other nations can manage it, so can we).
We should call out politicians who exploit myths and disinformation about COVID vaccines and other public health care precautions.
Now that Medicaid expansion has passed in North Carolina, we should ensure that it is not held hostage to unreasonable provisions in the state budget (it won't take effect until a new state budget passes).
We should oppose irresponsible laws like the one Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed last week that would end a requirement for pistol permits in North Carolina.
And we should make it clear that if lawmakers override that veto, as seems likely, we will hold them accountable.
Finally, one silver lining in these alarming trends is that Americans tend to live longer than persons in other countries once we've reached age 75.
The challenge, obviously, is getting there.