The good news is that legions of fat Americans are going to rescue their crumbling social security system from collapse by dying as much as 20 years earlier than they should, says an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The bad news is that the benefits of lower-than-forecast pension payouts will probably be offset by lost productivity and increases in Medicare costs. One worrying symptom of an impending crisis is that the lifetime risk of diabetes has risen to between 30 and 40% — and diabetes reduces life expectancy by about 13 years.
The authors paint a bleak picture of the future of American health. Unless effective population-level interventions to reduce obesity are developed, the steady rise in life expectancy observed in the modern era may soon come to an end and the youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents… gains in health and longevity that have taken decades to achieve may be quickly reversed.”
Countering more optimistic forecasts by demographers, the United Nations and the Social Security Administration, the article contends that extrapolating past trends into the future is unrealistic. In addition, obesity is not the only serious threat to the average life- expectancy of Americans. The rate of death from infectious diseases increased by 4.8% a year between 1980 and 1995; hospital-acquired infections have risen; and there are worrying signs that antibiotic pathogens have entered the community. There is also the risk that pandemic influenza could strike, knocking years off life expectancy statistics.
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