Why Brits Live Longer Than Americans and Other Stories

I couldn’t sleep last night and, as often happens when I can’t sleep, I ended up reading a huge succession of random web pages. You know what it’s like, you start off by reading the Wikipedia page for a band you like and 15 pages later you’re learning about the economy of Turkmenistan. Actually it’s just me that does this, right? This blog is nothing if not a source of random information so in case you’re dying to know the main exports of Turkmenistan are crude oil, gas and distracting Wikipedia pages. Don’t say I never teach you anything.

Anyway, I digress. At some point in my random surfing I Googled average life expectancy (once you reach 30 you’ll start to do this too, trust me) and learned that the average life expectancy for Americans is 3 years less than it is for British people. The average age a Brit dies is 81.60 years compared to 78.64 years for an American. Did I take 3 years off my life by moving to the US? Or do I lose less than 3 years because I spent my first 30 years in the comparatively healthier British Isles? I need to know and I need those 3 years because I was planning on buying Civilization VI at some point.

I’m sure there are many different theories as to why US life expectancy is lower such as healthcare, the milder climate in the UK and the fact that the Queen and Prince Philip are so old they increase the average age for the entire country. Personally I think it is down to the British love of taking our turn and not wanting to go ahead of anyone else. Occasionally it has its uses you see.


Another thing I learned this week is that the place where my lack of US pop culture knowledge is most horribly exposed is when I try to do trivia (or a pub quiz as they are known in the UK). I went to trivia after work and had never even heard of the TV shows that came up let alone the actors who starred in them. Luckily I have learned to hide my ignorance of US TV shows after 3 years of people saying “how have you never seen Saturday Night Live?!” (I finally did see it and it wasn’t funny). If you ever do a pub quiz in a foreign country make sure you nod sagely a lot and say “I agree” when something sounds plausible. I was able to redeem myself with my geography knowledge because when I was a kid I literally read maps for fun (who needs a PlayStation).

The final thing that I learned this week is that if you are walking through a touristy area of Boston and someone asks you for directions, when they hear you have a British accent they will presume you are also a tourist and will simply not believe you know the way to where they want to go. Now that I am in possession of this knowledge I’m going to order the most British clothing I can find and wear it every time I go downtown so I never get asked for directions again. Why didn’t I think of this three years ago?


What have you learned this week?


15 thoughts on “Why Brits Live Longer Than Americans and Other Stories

  1. Welcome back! Quick question: is the lower life expectancy is lowered due to gun crime?

    I learnt this week that in Cornwall, it can quite possibly remain mild enough not to need the heating on until November.

    1. Thanks Matt!

      That could be a part of it, I think healthcare has more to do with it (it’s possible to live a long way from a hospital in sparsely populated rural areas and also some people can’t go to the doctor often because insurance, copays etc).

  2. This made me check the life expectancy in Germany – not that I ever cared before, but somehow you got me curious! My Google list says UK is # 29 in the world, and Germany is # 28, and another list says that male life expectancy is 78.7 and female is 83. Phew… 😀

  3. I learned that no matter how smart and coiffed you look, ID photos – eg passport, driving licence – will always make you look like you’ve just been banged up for the worst crime ever committed!

      1. Exactly, mine was for a driving licence application, I had to get a neighbour to sign it saying it was a true likeness, I warned him he was going to have to lie 😄

  4. So in (kind of cruel) experiments, rats who are cold and hungry live longer than rats who are warm and fat.

    There. I believe I have explained the discrepancy between the life expectancy in our respective countries.

    Also, is three years more life worth it when you are cold and hungry?

    1. That was something I thought about, like what is the quality of life like for those extra 3 years. Of course it’s possible that in countries with lower life expectancy aging issues happen earlier too.

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