According to a new study released by The Journal of the American Medical Association, Americans on average are dying some 2.2 years sooner compared to the lifespan of citizens of our peer countries in the rest of the developed world. The stand out reasons why? Guns, drugs, and automobiles (I know, it sounds like a bad sequel to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles). These three causes alone accounted for 48 percent of the gap for men compared to other men among our peer nations, and 19 percent of the gap for women.
Vox has a more in-depth break down of these drivers and the causes behind them but what really stood out about guns was a 1999 study by UC Berkeley’s Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins. The study showed thanks to our much higher gun ownership rate per capita and our extraordinarily lax gun laws, even though property crimes during the comparison period between New York and London were comparable, the crimes in NYC were likely to be 54 times as deadly as those in London, thanks to the differences in access to guns.
As for drugs, Vox put together a helpful chart from the annual review of public health that lays out the rise of our Opioid epidemic here in America.
According to the Vox article, policy makers and regulators were far too slow to respond to the crises and largely bought into big pharma’s misleading statements about the safety of their products. And while the big PhRMA companies were raking in big profits, thousands upon thousands of our fellow Americans had become addicted, seen their lives and health ruined, fallen into destitution and crime, and many have now died as a result of this negligence.
Finally, you can thank the American love affair with the automobile and our unchecked urban sprawl for our higher automobile fatality rate. Our peers in Europe and Asia have largely had different public policies than us that encouraged higher density and smarter development, public transport, cities and common spaces that are friendlier to walking and cycling, and much greater development and use of inter-city high-speed rail services compared to our own largely antiquated and our under utilized rail services.
While there are many things to take pride in about this great nation of ours, these areas of “American Exceptionalism” are not among them. If we want to leave a better country and life for our children it is far past time we start summoning our better angels and living up to our best ideals, instead of our worst stereotypes.