Chart of the Day: US is the Loser in G7 Life Expectancy – Will Retirement Ages Continue to Rise?

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The US has the lowest life expectancy of all G7 nations, according to an alarming league table – and the trend looks troubling.

Seventy years ago, people in America could expect to live until they were 68, with the country ranking 13th globally behind the likes of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Although the average person now lives a decade longer than in 1950, progress has stalled compared to other developed nations. See this in the chart below and learn more here.

Academics from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined global life expectancy ratings between 1952 and 2021. They paid particular attention to G7 nations – the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US – a collection of countries with advanced economies representing about half of the global economic output. They found that over seven decades, the US fared the worst of all G7 countries.

While life expectancy has increased since the start of the study, similar countries have seen larger increases, according to the findings published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The average life expectancy in the UK has risen from 68.63 years in 1950 to 80.43 years in 2020, compared to 68.06 and 77.41, respectively, in the US. However, these improvements have failed to keep pace with countries such as Norway and Sweden, where people can now expect to live until 83.20 and 82.43, respectively.

Over the past 160 years, life expectancy (from birth) in the United States has risen from 39.4 years in 1860 to 78.9 years in 2020. One of the major reasons for the overall increase in life expectancy in the last two centuries is the fact that the infant and child mortality rates have decreased by so much during this time. Medical advancements, fewer wars, and improved living standards also mean that people are living longer than they did in previous centuries. See this in the chart below and learn more here.

However, the 78.9 years in 2020 US life expectancy has been further reduced to 76.4 years in 2021, partly due to Covid. For males, life expectancy decreased by 0.7 years, from 74.2 in 2020 to 73.5 in 2021. For females, life expectancy decreased by 0.6 years from 79.9 in 2020 to 79.3 in 2021.

The retirement age varies between countries. The general retirement age in the European Union is 65. In Spain, France, and Germany, the retirement age is set to increase to 67 years from 65, according to an article at The Finnish Center for Pensions. Some countries have different retirement ages for men and women. For instance, in Switzerland, the retirement ages for men and women are 65 and 64, respectively, while in Russia, it is 61.5 years and 56.5 years, respectively.  In the US, both men and women have a retirement age of 66 years and two months.

In the chart below, see where the US sits along with other countries in terms of current retirement ages and where the retirement age potential could arrive – learn more here.

We have been told that retirement ages need to rise because people live longer. One wonders if the reverse is true and people live shorter, will governments seek to reduce the retirement age?

Don’t hold your breath.

See more Chart of the Day posts.

By Tom Williams

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