**The Alarming Increase in Excess Deaths in the United States**
A recently published study in the journal PLOS One reveals that the United States has been experiencing a higher rate of deaths compared to other similar high-income countries, and this difference is only growing. The study examines the concept of excess deaths, which refers to the actual number of deaths in a given year compared to the expected number of deaths based on previous years or other countries. The findings show that between 2019 and 2021, there was an 84.9% increase in excess deaths in the United States. This article delves into the reasons behind this alarming trend and its implications.
**The Alarming Increase in Excess Deaths**
In 2021, out of the 3,456,000 deaths in the United States, more than 892,000 were excess deaths. This means that approximately 1 in 4 deaths in the country was considered an excess death. Comparatively, in 2019, there were 483,000 excess deaths, or nearly 1 in 6 deaths. The significant increase in excess deaths in the United States highlights a worrying trend that demands attention.
To analyze this trend, the study compared the number of deaths in the United States with those in five Western European countries: England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. These countries were selected due to their similar wealth and population size and had previously been used in a separate study that reported a 34.5% increase in excess deaths in the United States between 2000 and 2017.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to the higher death rates in the United States compared to other countries, it is not the sole reason for the increase in excess deaths. Even prior to the pandemic, the United States was already experiencing a slower decline in death rates and life expectancy compared to other high-income countries.
**The Stagnation of Life Expectancy in the United States**
Despite being the largest economic power with cutting-edge medical technology, the United States has fallen behind in terms of life expectancy. Over the past 50 years, many other countries have surpassed the United States in terms of declining death rates and increasing life expectancy. This trend is supported by data showing that the United States’ life expectancy has slipped from the middle of the pack to the lowest rungs compared to around 20 other high-income countries.
The slower decline in death rates in the United States is directly related to the relatively stagnant life expectancy. Several factors contribute to the higher death rates in the country. For instance, cardiovascular disease, which has seen declining death rates globally, has experienced stagnated rates in the United States. This can be attributed to the rise in obesity, as obesity increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The high prevalence of obesity in the United States has also contributed to the higher death rates from COVID-19.
In addition to cardiovascular disease, intentional and unintentional injuries contribute to the high death rates in the United States. The country has disproportionately high death rates from homicides, particularly those caused by firearms. Furthermore, drug overdoses have also played a significant role in unintentional injuries and deaths in the United States.
**Exploring the Fundamental Causes**
While addressing the specific causes of deaths such as cardiovascular disease, intentional injuries, and drug overdoses is crucial, there is a need to delve into the fundamental causes that underlie the elevated death rates in the United States. Research is currently underway to understand the societal factors that make the U.S. population vulnerable to successive epidemics, ranging from HIV/AIDS to COVID-19, as well as gun violence and opioid overdoses.
These factors include racial and economic inequalities, which, combined with a weaker social security net and limited access to healthcare, contribute to larger health and death disparities compared to European countries. Understanding and addressing these fundamental causes is essential for developing effective health policies and reducing the alarming increase in excess deaths in the United States.
The United States faces a concerning trend of increasing excess deaths compared to other similar high-income countries. This trend is not solely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic but is also influenced by slower declines in death rates and life expectancy. Key factors contributing to the higher death rates in the United States include obesity, cardiovascular disease, intentional and unintentional injuries, and social and economic inequalities. Understanding the fundamental causes and addressing them through appropriate health policies is crucial in reversing this alarming trend and improving the health outcomes for the American population.
Heuveline, P. (2023). Annual Numbers of Excess Deaths in the US Relative to Other Developed Countries Are Growing at an Alarming Rate. The Conversation.
[Link to the original article.](https://theconversation.com/annual-numbers-of-excess-deaths-in-the-us-relative-to-other-developed-countries-are-growing-at-an-alarming-rate-204622)