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Past Smoking Trends, Obesity to Blame for Shorter Lifespans in US

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Americans have shorter lifespans compared to people in other high-income nations, and smoking and obesity are to blame, according to a new report.

Despite spending more money on health care than any other country, the report by the National Research Council found that life expectancy in the U.S. has been rising but slowly in comparison to countries like Japan and Australia. 

One main culprit for this lag has been America's past with smoking.  The report says mortality rates are still being affected today by smoking habits 30 to 50 years ago, when smoking was more widespread in the U.S. than in Europe or Japan.

Reductions in smoking in the U.S. over the last 20 years, however, will likely counter these findings in the upcoming decades, when the benefits begin to register.  The report predicts that men's life expectancies will improve fairly quickly as a result.  Mortality rates for women in the U.S., on the other hand, are predicted to decline slowly because women's smoking behavior peaked later than men's.

Obesity is also to blame for the lag in life expectancies, possibly accounting for a fifth to a third of the shortfall in the U.S., according to the report.  If obesity rates continue to rise, it could offset any improvements to come from reductions in smoking.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio