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Early gun, drug, car deaths contribute to U.S. life-expectancy gap: Study

Early gun, drug, car deaths contribute to U.S. life-expectancy gap: Study
Health
An ambulance leaves the scene after a shootout in the Florida Panhandle early Friday, Feb.5, 2016 in Milton, Florida. (AP/Michael Spooneybarger)

Published Tuesday, February 9, 2016 11:30AM EST

Last Updated Tuesday, February 9, 2016 11:36AM EST

CHICAGO -- Guns, drugs and cars contribute substantially to the life-expectancy gap between the United States and other developed nations, a study found.

Deaths from old-age ailments sometimes get more attention in longevity research, but deaths from these three causes tend to happen at younger ages, contributing to many decades of life lost, the researchers said.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show injuries including violence, car crashes and drug poisonings and overdoses are the leading cause of deaths for Americans up to the age of 44.

U.S. death rates from these three injury categories exceed those in 12 other developed countries included in the study: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the researchers said.

Gun deaths were a major factor among men: The U.S. rate was 18.4 such deaths per 100,000 men, versus 1 per 100,000 in the comparison countries.

The researchers estimates are based on an analysis of 2012 data from the U.S. government and the World Health Organization. The government study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"If we brought mortality from car crashes, firearm injuries and drug poisonings down to levels that we see in these other countries, we d gain about a year of life expectancy," said lead author Andrew Fenelon, a sociologist with the CDC s National Center for Health Statistics.

The injury data include accidental and intentional deaths and suicides, and deaths from prescription medications and illicit drugs.

The study bolsters the argument that improving U.S. life expectancy will require addressing premature deaths among younger ages, said Jessica Ho, a Duke University sociologist who has done similar research.

Strengthening U.S. gun laws, making safer cars and addressing the root causes of drug use, including income inequality, are among policies that might help, she said.
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