Tuesday, 22 Apr, 2008 Health & Fitness
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Life Expectancy of American Women Falls Significantly

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A great number of American women face shorter life expectancy than in the early 1980s, scientists say.

The trend of women's life expectancy decline is evident in nearly 1,000 counties, where about 12 percent of American women liveThis tendency can be observed in rural and low-income areas, but is likely to spread across the United States in the coming years. The most dramatic decline was observed in two areas in southwestern Virginia, where life expectancy dropped by more than five years since 1983.

Experts explain that decrease in women's life expectancy is caused by the long-term effects of smoking, that became popular among women decades after men fell into this habit. This led to the increasing number of death from such diseases as diabetes, lung cancer, kidney problems and emphysema.

Another problem that caused the decline of women's life expectancy is the obesity epidemic that has risen in the past two decades.

Christopher J.L. Murray, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington, and the leading researcher the study thinks that this is an alarming sign. He explained that the tendency seems to be characteristic for Americans, as in other countries in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand there was no such decline.

The decline in US men's longevity was smaller and was observed in fewer places.

Scientists say that downfall of life expectancy over long periods is driven by huge factors, such as AIDS epidemic in Africa or social disturbances like the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Murray and his colleagues studied mortality and information about the causes of the death from 1961 to 1999. The analysis showed that during a period from 1961 to 1983, the average life expectancy in the US rose by nearly 7 years for men and almost 6 years for women. This is attributed to the decline in death rates from heart attack due to the improvements in medicine. However, by the beginning of 1980s this increase slowed down and further improvements were seen mostly in areas with high life expectancy.

Nearly one in five American women is now facing the decreasing longevity. Extreme obesity, smoking and increased blood pressure are mostly to blame.

The study is published in PLoS Medicine, an open-access journal of the Public Library of Science.

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