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Spain to Top Life Expectancy List

Japan will fall to second place by 2040; U.S. to drop from 43rd to 64th in rankings

Man in Spain raising a toast with his family

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A Spanish man gives a toast. Spainards are expected to have the highest life expectancy in 20 years.

Global life expectancy for virtually every nation will rise in the next 20 years, but Spain will be the big winner, overtaking Japan as the country with the longest-lived population, according to new research. And while the average U.S. lifespan will increase, the United States will fall from 43rd to 64th place on a global list of 195 nations.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that by 2040 Spain will surpass Japan in life expectancy, edging it out with an average of 85.8 years, compared with 85.7 years. Singapore and Switzerland, in third and fourth place, are projected to have life expectancies slightly longer than 85 years.

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The U.S. average is expected to be 79.8 years, older than the 78.7 years at present but lagging behind almost two dozen other countries, mainly in the West but also including China, where life expectancy will exceed 80 years for the first time. Much of the reason behind the relatively stagnant U.S. average is the opioid crisis that each year is claiming thousands of lives prematurely.

By contrast, analysts believe Spain’s rise may be in part attributable to the Mediterranean diet and a robust health care system. The World Health Organization has ranked Spain seventh in the world for its system; the U.S. ranks 37th.