A new study shows that all those conversations we’re having about the future of Obamacare, mental health stigma and support, and access to Planned Parenthood are critical not only to Americans’ immediate well-being, but how long we live. Yes, average life expectancy worldwide will go up by 2030, but the predicted change in the US will lag behind many other high-income countries and emerging economies. Yet South Koreans are expected to keep living longer — even surpassing the Japanese (who we thought had possibly found the Fountain of Youth) — with South Korean women having an average life expectancy of over 90 by 2030. Compare that to American women, who will only be expected to live until 83.

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Researchers at Imperial College London looked at both life expectancy at birth, taking into account child mortality rates and death among young people, and life expectancy at 65, which reflects things like heart disease. The findings show the US will likely have the lowest life expectancies among high-income countries (79.5 years for men) in 2030 — similar to emerging economies like Croatia and Mexico. The gains are pretty low, since 2010 life expectancies were 81 for women and 76 for men.

Compare that to the projected leading country, South Korea, where the average life expectancy in 1960 was just 53 years. Now, South Koreans are expected to live until 82 years old — almost four years longer than the average American. And in 2030, South Korea might become the first country ever to surpass the 90-year life expectancy mark for women, which the study’s lead, Professor Majid Ezzati, said many experts didn’t think they’d ever see. “This shows that even if there is a limit to longevity, we are nowhere near it. We should be planning for more life,” he tells CNN. That’s pretty incredible.

The US seems to be stalling for several reasons, according to the study. Deaths from drugs, alcohol, and mental health disorders are rising, and deaths from heart disease have actually risen since 2010, after declining for decades. According to Vox, “The US also has some of the highest obesity, homicide, and infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world.” While Obamacare was a step in the right direction, the US’s lack of universal health care also plays a role, the study says. Basically, we’ve got a LOT of work to do, so keep going to those town halls and staying informed.

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So what’s South Korea doing right? Even though the average income in South Korea is less than half of the US (almost $56,000), South Korea has more equality when it comes to access to health care. Another reason is simply that they’ve retained their healthy diet and active culture as their economy has exploded. Unlike Japan, who’s expected to fall to the number two spot by 2030 partly because they’ve embraced Western diets. As if you weren’t already feeling disappointed in America’s standing on health.

If you were already considering a move abroad, Canada is still a good option (still tops the list for men), but take a look at the countries that’ll have the top life expectancy in 2030. Some are definitely surprising.


  1. South Korea
  2. France
  3. Japan
  4. Spain
  5. Switzerland
  6. Australia
  7. Portugal
  8. Slovenia
  9. Italy
  10. Canada

Are you surprised by these findings? Let us know @BritandCo.

(h/t Vox and CNN, Photos via Getty)