More than 97 percent of American adults have at least one risk factor for an early death, according to new research from Canada’s York University.
In June, researchers published an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to assess mortality risk among adults 20 years and older. Scientists analyzed the surveys between two different periods of time — 1988-1994 and 1999-2014 — to examine risk factors ranging from obesity and chronic illness to lifestyle habits such as drug use and alcohol consumption.
“Over 97% of individuals had at least one of the 19 risk factors examined with no difference in the prevalence over time,” their report concluded. “The prevalence of individuals who are free of all of the 19 examined risk factors was less than 3%, at all time points.”
The kinds of risks that were present in 1988-1994 compared to 1999-2014, however, shifted from physiological risks such as cancer and lung problems to mental risks and lifestyle issues like sedentary movement.
Health professor Jennifer Kuk, the lead author of the study, said in a university press release that “you can take this as a good news story or a bad news story, depending on how you want to look at these numbers.”
“What we discovered is that the relationship with risk factors and mortality changes over time, which could be explained by factors such as evolution in treatments and changes in social stigma,” Kuk said. “Overall, most of us have something wrong with us, and we’re more likely to have a lifestyle health-risk factor now than in the ’80s and that’s actually associated with even greater mortality risk now than before.”
Lifestyle habits from excess sugar consumption to drug use often feed chronic illnesses leading to premature death. A paper published in the journal Population Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder earlier this year found obesity raises the risk of early mortality by as much as 90 percent.
Nearly 42 percent of American adults aged 20 and older, meanwhile, were categorically obese between 2017 and 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Multiple studies published last year revealed Americans were in worse shape than previously thought at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Just 1 in 7 adults enjoyed “good cardiometabolic health” in 2018, just two years before the public health emergency. Only 1 in 5 adults was considered to have “optimal heart health” based on the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Essential 8.”
New data from the U.S. Geological Survey this week is raising new concerns about the nation’s deteriorating health. Federal investigators found at least 45 percent of American tap water is likely contaminated with PFAS, known as “forever chemicals.” PFAS are synthetic chemicals found in everyday products such as cookware and food packaging. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has connected PFAS to obesity, cancer, and fertility issues. Last summer, the EPA issued a health advisory to raise the alarm on chemicals contaminating drinking water.