The Nation: Living Longer

Among the nations that measure average life expectancy, America ranks a relatively low 17th — behind most of Western Europe, Japan, Greece and even Bulgaria. Part of the reason is that the U.S. is a large, heterogeneous country where many people, especially non-whites and the rural poor, lack good nutrition and medical care.

But the statistics are improving. The average American life span reached a record-high 71.9 years in 1974, up from 71.3 in 1973. According to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., the expected lifetime rose to 68.1 years for men and to 75.8 for women — the largest annual increases in...

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