Much has been made of America’s life expectancy deficit, but focusing on a statistic which is an average for the whole population masks truly staggering disparities at the extremes. For men at the bottom of the US economic ladder, it’s even worse. My calculations suggest the average age of death in that group is just 36 years old, compared with 55 in the Netherlands and 57 in Sweden.
In most wealthy countries, if you’re desperately unlucky in the longevity stakes, you succumb to cancer before you reach 60. But if you’re unlucky in the US, you die from a drug overdose or gunshot wound by 40. Which brings us again to the most shocking statistic: among the least fortunate 10 per cent of American men, the average age at death is 36.
Looking at different regions within the US paints a similar picture. Conditions such as obesity shorten the lives of rich and poor alike, but the most uniquely American afflictions have steep socio-economic gradients. Wealthy Americans who live in the parts of the country with high opioid use and gun violence live just as long as those who live where fentanyl addiction and gunshot incidents are relatively rare. But poor Americans live far shorter lives if they grow up surrounded by guns and drugs than if they don’t.
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) deleted a reference to a study it commissioned after a group of gun-control advocates complained it made passing new restrictions more difficult.
The lobbying campaign spanned months and culminated with a private meeting between CDC officials and three advocates last summer, a collection of emails obtained by The Reload show. Introductions from the White House and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D., Ill.) office helped the advocates reach top officials at the agency after their initial attempt to reach out went unanswered. The advocates focused their complaints on the CDC’s description of its review of studies that estimated defensive gun uses (DGU) happen between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year in the United States–attacking criminologist Gary Kleck’s work establishing the top end of the range.
“[T]hat 2.5 Million number needs to be killed, buried, dug up, killed again and buried again,” Mark Bryant, one of the attendees, wrote to CDC officials after their meeting. “It is highly misleading, is used out of context and I honestly believe it has zero value – even as an outlier point in honest DGU discussions.”
Bryant, who runs the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), argued Kleck’s estimate has been damaging to the political prospects of passing new gun restrictions and should be eliminated from the CDC’s website.