Politics Analysis

Life expectancy data reaffirms the horrors of a Trump Presidency

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The latest life expectancy data confirms that some countries – including Australia – are making better choices than others, Alan Austin reports.

THE WORLD IS a dangerous place. Not just in famine-stricken regions in Africa and the Middle East. Not only in war-torn countries like Gaza and Ukraine.

Some of the world’s most highly advanced nations are losing citizens in disturbing numbers to suicide, smoking, illicit drugs, preventable disease and gun violence.

The World Bank has just released its annual life expectancy data for 217 countries for 2022. Overall, this is depressing reading.

The world average life expectancy was just 72.0 years, down from 72.3 back in 2016 and well below the all-time high of 73.0 in 2019. It was a substantial improvement, however, on just 71.3 in 2021.

Two recent phenomena have shortened productive lives. COVID-19 impacted all regions of the world bar none, some worse than others. The violence fomented in the U.S. by Donald Trump and the MAGA – "Make America Great Again" – movement continues to destroy lives there.

Regional impact of COVID-19 patchy

Life expectancy in East Asia and the Pacific fell only 4.8 months from 2019 to 2021 as a result of the pandemic. The decline in Europe and Central Asia, in contrast, was 27.8 months.

Latin America and the Caribbean were the worst-hit regions, with lives shortened by an average of 34.7 months — nearly three years.

Leading developed members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for longevity in 2022 was Japan, with 84.0 years. That is actually Japan’s lowest number since 2016 and well below its peak of 84.6 in 2020.

So, the Japanese are recovering from COVID-19 steadily — but slowly. Switzerland came next with 83.5 years, closely followed by Australia with 83.2.

(Source: World Bank World Development Indicators | databank.worldbank.org)

Australia among the global leaders

Australia was one of only seven OECD members to record longer average lives in 2022 than in 2019 — pre-COVID-19. The others were New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico, Turkiye and Luxembourg.

At 83.2 years, Australia’s life expectancy in 2022 was just a month or so below the all-time high registered the year before. This is the first time Australia has ranked third in the OECD since records have been kept. The ranking has previously fluctuated between fourth and tenth.

This suggests Australia’s management of the pandemic and its aftermath was effective. It also bolsters the view that efforts via legislation and community awareness-raising to reduce gun violence, smoking, obesity and other risk factors are succeeding.

Change over time

Some countries currently placed well down the current rankings are, in fact, improving their life expectancy dramatically. Turkiye, for example, while ranking a lowly 28th in 2022, has zoomed up from 33rd just two years earlier.

Other developed nations with impressively extended average life spans are South Korea, Portugal and Ireland. Countries liberated from the Eastern European communist blocs have also seen strong improvements. These include Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary.

(Source: World Bank World Development Indicators | databank.worldbank.org)

At the other end of the chart, four developed countries had lower life expectancy in 2022 than in 2010 — all of them in the Americas. The most prominent failures – the USA, Costa Rica and Colombia – all have high firearm fatalities, serious drug usage problems and badly mismanaged COVID-19.

Political violence in the United States

The U.S. continues to suffer from the epidemic of killings and maimings which hit the nation in 2015 when Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy and urged his followers to engage in personal violence. Those calls, which keep on coming, are continually amplified and spread by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News.

Total gun homicides reported by Gun Violence Archive to the end of June this year were 8,483 — which puts the nation on track for an annual tally of 16,966. Total homicides are, of course, much higher.

While this continues the decline from the 2021 peak, it remains well above the pre-Trump levels.

(Source: Gun Violence Archive 10 Year Review | gunviolencearchive.org)

The above trajectory – a steady decline from the 1980s to 2015, then a surge to 2021, then a gradual decline – is evident in almost all categories of violence.

These include:

  • personal assaults;
  • hate crimes;
  • murders and manslaughters;
  • school shootings;
  • children and teenagers shot;
  • random mass shootings; and
  • police officers shot on duty.

U.S. longevity still below 2014

This Trump-fuelled violence is reflected in the life expectancy data, which shows a sharp drop in 2015 continuing into 2016.

(Source: World Bank World Development Indicators | databank.worldbank.org)

That slump from 2015 to 2019 is almost certainly due to the escalation in political killings, although this is impossible to prove definitively from the limited data available.

There is no other plausible explanation. The surge in violence from late 2015 onwards and the decline in life expectancy did not happen anywhere else.

The U.S. is the only advanced nation whose peak longevity was back in 2014, the year before Trump’s first calls for retribution. It is the only OECD member to have recorded lower life expectancy in 2016 than in 2010.

Longevity improved in 2018 and 2019, then plummeted in 2020 and 2021 as a consequence of the Trump Administration’s fatal mismanagement of the pandemic. The recovery in 2022 has been only partial due to lingering COVID-19 infections and continuing murders and manslaughters.

Americans can vote to end the MAGA madness in November this year.

If they live that long.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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