Jill Biden In Charge Of The First White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research. Gender Gap in U.S. Life Expectancy Highest Since 1996.
You might think that American women have a shorter life expectancy than American men after reading the news out of the White House. You would be wrong.
Life expectancy at birth in the US decreased for the second consecutive year, from 78.8 years (2019) to 77.0 years (2020) and 76.1 years (2021). American women's longevity advantage over American men increased to 5.8 years, its largest since 1996 and an increase from its recent low of 4.8 years in 2010.
First, the latest political manipulation of medical research:
2:20 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, folks, I’m going to be signing a presidential memorandum in just a minute here to establish the first-ever White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.
It’s an effort made possible by Jill, who’s been a long champion of women’s health, and Jen Klein, Dr. Mazure, Maria Shriver, and others.
Because the fact is that it requires all of government — not just NIH, but HHS, the VA, the Defense Department, and every agency in the government having anything to do with health — it requires them to come up with a report to me — for me that lays out what they can do collectively to improve women’s health.
Women make up more than half the population. But for too long, they’ve been underrepresented when it comes to health research and the money spent on that research. That’s going to change today.
So, this — signing this, I’m setting up this group that within 45 days, all the government agencies that have anything to do with health have to report on exactly what they’re doing now with regard to women’s health and the suggestions they may have on how to deal with it.
So, let me sign now this and make it official, and then yield to Jill.
Well, let — Jill, I’m going to yield to you first.
THE FIRST LADY: Thank you. (Laughter.) I just want to say, Maria, I am so grateful to you for bringing this to our attention. And it’s your leadership that’s really going to make the difference and has made the difference already.
And also, thank you, Carolyn, for, you know, your involvement and your willingness to lead this effort.
And, you know, Maria, after you came a couple of months ago and then I spoke to Joe and — I have to say one of the things that I love most about Joe is, you know, you take something to him and he listens. And he did listen to us, and that’s — and it’s resulted in this memorandum.
So, thank you, Joe. I really appreciate this.
THE PRESIDENT: Well — (laughter).
THE FIRST LADY: And women deserve better. And now, we’re going to get it. So, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You don’t have to thank me. I didn’t realize how — how much incongruity there was and how imbalanced it was. So, God willing, we’re going to solve that.
(The presidential memorandum is signed.)
All right. (Applause.) Thank you all very much.
Q Are you concerned about a shutdown, Mr. President? Are you concerned about a shutdown, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: With regard to a potential shutdown, I understand that the new Speaker of the House has a proposal that’s being negotiated with the Minority Leader of the House and Senator Schumer and — and the Republican Leader also talking about it.
I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. Apparently, there’s a meeting today at four or five o’clock on the Rules Committee. And we’ll see what happens.
Q Would you veto the laddered CR?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to make a judgment on what I’d veto or what I’d sign. But let’s wait and see what they come up with.
THE FIRST LADY: The hospital in Gaza, Kelly was asking.
Q The hospitals in Gaza — have you expressed any specific concerns to Israel on that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know I have not been reluctant in expressing my concerns what’s going on. And it is my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital. We’re in contact, and we’re — with — with the Israelis.
Also, there is an effort to take this pause to deal the release of prisoners, and that’s being negotiated as well with — the Qataris are engaged and –
So, I remain somewhat hopeful. But the hospital must be protected.
2:23 P.M. EST
No mention of a men's health initiative. Now the actual medical circumstances:
Gap in life expectancy widens between men and womenIn 2021, the gender gap in life expectancy rose to 5.8 years, its largest since 1996, a recent study found. Photo by Valentine Angel Fernandez/Pexels
The gap in life expectancy between American men and women is now the biggest it has been since the mid-1990s -- almost six years.
The pandemic and opioid overdoses are key factors in the gender difference in longevity, said researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
"There's been a lot of research into the decline in life expectancy in recent years, but no one has systematically analyzed why the gap between men and women has been widening since 2010," said first study author Dr. Brandon Yan, a resident in internal medicine at UCSF.
In 2021, the gender gap in life expectancy rose to 5.8 years, its largest since 1996, he and his colleagues report. In 2010, the gap was its smallest in recent history, 4.8 years.
Life expectancy in the United States was 76.1 years in 2021. That's down from 78.8 years in 2019 and 77 years in 2020.
Researchers cited the pandemic as the biggest factor in the widening gender gap; it took a heavier toll on men. Unintentional injuries and poisonings (mostly drug overdoses), accidents and suicide were other contributors.
Another factor in Americans' shrinking lifespan: so-called "deaths of despair." That's a nod to the rise in deaths owing to such causes as suicide, drug use disorders and alcoholic liver disease. These are often linked to economic hardship, depression and stress.
"While rates of death from drug overdose and homicide have climbed for both men and women, it is clear that men constitute an increasingly disproportionate share of these deaths," Yan said in a joint news release from UCSF and Harvard.
He and colleagues from around the country used data from the National Center for Health Statistics to zero in on the causes of death that were contributing most to shrinking life expectancy. After that, they examined how much different causes were contributing to the gap.
For a number of reasons, men were more likely to die of COVID during the pandemic. Researchers pointed to differences in health behaviors as well as risk of on-the-job exposure, reticence to seek medical care, being in jail and housing instability. Also factoring in were chronic metabolic disorders, mental illness and gun violence.
"We have brought insights to a worrisome trend," Yan said. "Future research ought to help focus public health interventions towards helping reverse this decline in life expectancy."
He said the findings raise questions about the need to develop specialized care, such as in mental health, for men.
Senior author Dr. Howard Koh, a professor of public health leadership at Harvard, said follow-up will be needed to see if the trends change after 2021.
"We need to track these trends closely as the pandemic recedes," he said. "And we must make significant investments in prevention and care to ensure that this widening disparity, among many others, does not become entrenched."
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