Americans could live an average of 12 years longer by 2040, according to a new report. But employers must lead the charge

 On average, Americans live 76 years—only 85% of them in good health. 

All Americans could live to 90, however, with 95% of those years in good health—and spend less on health care in the process. That’s the assertion of a new report released Tuesday by financial services firm Deloitte.

Life span could increase by an average of 12 years, and health span—or the number of years a person spends in good health—by an average of 19 years by 2040, according to the company’s new analysis.

Historically marginalized groups have even more to gain, with Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native people standing to gain 25 and 28 years of health span, respectively.

How employers can help boost the average U.S. life span and health span

Businesses are uniquely positioned to effect this change, the report contends. Because a healthy worker is often a productive worker, employers should consider caring for their employees their No. 1 responsibility, the report’s authors write. Among their recommendations to employers:

  • Ensure the workforce has access to top-of-the-line physical and mental health care services, via digital tools and expanded insurance networks.
  • Seek to boost health literacy and education among employees.
  • Invest in prevention, screenings, and care at home.
  • Improve access to healthy foods.
  • Provide nutritional counseling.
  • Promote physical activity.
  • Thoughtfully consider if the company is doing all it can to promote healthy living and health equity.

If a company has employees, it’s a health organization, regardless of the industry space it’s in, the report’s authors contend. Some first steps to improving employee wellness that businesses might take, according to the report:

  • Encourage social connections.
  • Offer opportunities for employees to exercise.
  • Facilitate stress management.
  • Encourage employees who smoke to quit.
  • Incentivize the use of health wearables, and pair them with coaching and nudging.

“Employers can be the catalyst for change, but they can’t do it alone,” the authors write. “All ecosystem stakeholders—including employers, the life sciences and health care industries, public health, and individuals—should come together.”

The report encourages the public and private sectors to join forces to “invest in longer, healthier lives that cost less—both for individuals and institutions.”

U.S. lifespan hits all-time low, as health care costs soar

In 2021 the U.S. lifespan decreased to its lowest point since 1996, driven by COVID-19 and drug overdose deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in December.

U.S. residents experience the worst health outcomes of any high-income country. They’re more likely to die younger, from avoidable causes than residents of other first-world nations. Paradoxically, they—and the country as a whole—spend more on health care than any other rich nation. The U.S. is the only high-income nation without universal health coverage, according to a 2022 report from The Commonwealth Fund.

The U.S. also has the lowest life expectancy at birth, the highest death rates from avoidable or treatable conditions, and the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among first-world nations, according to the 2022 report. Its suicide rate is one of the highest among such countries.

The country also has the highest rate of people living with multiple chronic conditions. Yet Americans see doctors less often than people in most other high-income countries. And the nation has some of the lowest rates of practicing physicians and hospital beds among its peers, the fund reports.

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