China can be proud

Look at that red line — China has almost doubled their life expectancy since 1960, which is a significant accomplishment.

Then look at the blue line. The US started from a more advantaged position, but we’ve still been steadily increasing survival over the years.

Except recently. See the abrupt downturn since 2020? It’s due to increased mortality from COVID. Chinese life expectancy continued its steady rise throughout this period, despite the pandemic, while we done fucked up and saw a terrible drop of life expectancy of 1.8 years. I’m closing in on the high end of the graph, and I want those 1.8 years back. With interest.

China can be proud, but we should be ashamed. Our COVID response has evaporated to nearly nothing, and I want at least twelve more good years.


  1. robro says

    But…but…but…Jared has been exercising because his generation may be the first to live forever.

  2. silvrhalide says

    I expected to see the hit in the US life expectancy and expect it to drop still further (the brain fog side effect is only what we know so far–the twentysomethings and thirtysomethings might rally and seem okay now but I’m reserving judgement for another twenty+ years–I would not be surprised to see a spike in early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. when they hit their 50s and 60s).

    I don’t believe for a minute that the Chinese numbers are legit. PRC is notorious for lying about statistics that don’t suit them. Or facts. Given that China pushed the WHO to legitimize SinoPharm and CoronaVac when they are 50% or less effective tells me that China is interested in “show” not “go”.

    I’m also wondering if the engineered death of the Chinese eye doctor who warned the world about the coronavirus pandemic in its early days got counted in the numbers that led to that line on the graph? How about the Chinese who are literally locked in their apartments and starving to death during the various Chinese lockdowns? Finding it kind of hard to believe that their population’s life stats didn’t take a hit, as most other populations did throughout the rest of the planet.

    There is plenty to be ashamed of in the American response to Covid 19. We also did some things about which we should be proud, like inventing two of the more effective vaccines in record time. None of that legitimizes what I suspect is a whole lot of magical math from the Chinese.

  3. says

    The biggest driver in the drop in US life expectancy is covid, accounting for 50% of the decline
    Pardon me if I’m missing something, but that looks to me like the decline started before 2020. Before COVID.
    Also I’ve never heard of QUARTZ. Is it a reputable news source? I kind of feel like I’m being lied to. I recommend reading the paper the QUARTZ article links to and drawing your own conclusions. I’m reading it right now and the more I read the more I see a failure of the American healthcare system before COVID.
    My statistics skills are a bit rusty so let me know if I’m missing something.

  4. whheydt says

    In spite of her life being cut short by ALS, my wife still beat those stats. She was 80 when she died.

  5. silvrhalide says

    @3 It did start before the pandemic. It was all the “deaths of despair” that drove those numbers–alcoholism, lots of drug overdoses (opioid epidemic, anyone?), early deaths from diabetes, heart disease, etc. (lots of morbidly obese Americans b/c the cheapest food is the least healthy food). Covid 19 just accelerated the pace–it took out a lot of people whose health was marginal, so instead of hanging on for several more years, they died in the Covid 19 epidemic. It’s also a massive indictment of the crashing failure that is the American healthcare system.

    And no, QUARTZ is a lightweight publication trying to be a premier online magazine and mostly failing. That’s what happens when you don’t have professional permanent staff. Its target audience skews left and tech.
    The bitterness of low quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price disappears.

  6. springa73 says

    I wouldn’t necessarily trust the official numbers from China, but even just looking at the US numbers, the picture is hardly encouraging. It looks like life expectancy had basically flatlined in the decade after 2010, and was starting to drop quickly even before Covid.

  7. Steve Morrison says

    This may be a baseline fallacy. 1960 was in the middle of the Great Leap Forward, and a lot of Chinese people died prematurely in those days.

  8. raven says

    Pardon me if I’m missing something, but that looks to me like the decline started before 2020. Before COVID.

    It did.
    But it wasn’t that dramatic a drop.

    It was mostly driven by large drops in life expectancy in certain subgroups, white older rural females and middle aged white males.

    The biggest driver in the drop in US life expectancy is covid, accounting for 50% of the decline

    It is right there in this sentence.
    50% of the drop is something other than the Covid-19 virus.

  9. silvrhalide says

    @8 Americans are definitely more obese than the Chinese but China added a new phrase “cancer village” to the global lexicon.

    Look, American healthcare, even for those who have insurance, is spectacularly awful. We pay some of the highest healthcare costs and have the worst medical outcomes and overall health of any developed nation. And it shows in stats like the graph in the OP.

    Worldwide, most populations took a life expectancy hit. How much of a hit kind of depended on what kind of healthcare and crisis systems were in place in the first place, how wealthy and/or developed a nation was, what kind of resources they had, etc. Countries who had healthier populations and invested more in healthcare and infrastructure (most Scandinavian countries, Germany, Switzerland, etc.) had better outcomes than populations that didn’t.

    But China is saying “nope, not us! Our overall lifespan went UP!” In a time when literally no one else’s did? Yeah, no, I’m calling BS on that one.

  10. drew says

    we’ve still been steadily increasing survival over the years

    Only if “the years” are only the last decade or so.

  11. silvrhalide says

    Perhaps more relevant is this excerpt from the Nature link I posted earlier, regarding the Chinese vaccines, which are inactivated vaccines (killed SARS CoV-2 virus, not mRNA):
    “The less-potent immune response from inactivated vaccines also has implications for the protection they offer to older people. The immune system weakens with age and vaccines are generally less effective in older people, says Kang, but the effect seems to be more pronounced with the inactivated vaccines.

    A massive analysis of some one million people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Brazil4 found that CoronaVac offered up to 60% protection against severe disease up to the age of 79 — not far off the 76% protection offered by the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine.

    But the picture changes drastically in people over 80, says co-author Daniel Villela, an epidemiologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In that group, CoronaVac was only 30% effective at preventing severe disease and 45% effective against death, compared with 67% and 85%, respectively, for the Oxford–AstraZeneca jab.

    Research by Barral-Netto and his colleagues5 found that CoronaVac prevented only 33% of deaths due to COVID-19 in people 90 and older. Neither study has been peer-reviewed, but Villela says they influenced Brazil’s government to start giving people older than 70 a third shot of an mRNA or viral-vector vaccine in August — that decision has now been extended to people older than 60.

    “It was better to receive CoronaVac than nothing,” says Barral-Netto, but now that other vaccines are flowing into Brazil “it is probably not very wise to keep vaccinating people with this vaccine”, he says, adding that the Brazilian government has said it will stop purchasing CoronaVac.”

    Admittedly, the chart in the OP stops before the age of 80, which is the point where Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness takes a real dip. But they don’t work real well for the over 60 crowd either. So where is this amazing (and mathematically inexplicable) miracle of increased lifespan coming from?

    I mean, this knob drew on a map with a Sharpie. That wasn’t real either.

  12. ANB says

    @ silvrhalide

    You are a real downer. (j/k)

    I appreciate your information, and I agree with your assessment.

  13. StevoR says

    Is it just covid or also the result of rising (?) gun deaths, poverty and consequences for healthcare, increased deaths from heatwaves, fires and extreme weather events from Global Overheating, etc.. that’s bringing the USA’s life expectancy down? I’d think it ‘s likely a combination of factors maybe with covid high among them? A rise in maternal and infant mortality from banning abortion and limiting reproductive helathcare also seems likely though guess there hasn’t been time for that to be too much of a factor – yet.

    @1. robro :“But…but…but…Jared has been exercising because his generation may be the first to live forever.”

    Guessing he doesn’t think that will apply to all his generation just the richest few who “deserve it” ( vomit) by amassing huge enough fortunes whilst the poor die off earlier than before..Especially in other developing world and second world nations.

  14. pilgham says

    1) The new things causing the dip are the opioid epidemic and COVID.
    2) This is “LE at birth” and is heavily affected by infant mortality. Or it ought to be, but the US seems to be inept at “adulting” and is losing people at what ought to be a low-risk time of life. Anyway adults that have made it to their senior years will have a LE beyond the LE they had at birth.
    3) If you follow through the links in the quartz article you can get the CDC table which will tell you the life expectancy at your current age. And I’m betting PZ makes it to 90. If he doesn’t pop a blood vessel.
    4) And yes, us having a declining LE is a disgrace. Heads should roll, figuratively, as doing it literally would be counterproductive.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    OT The IG nobels are out.

    And I agree, the health care and what Sweden calls “folkhälsa”, the general state of health in the nation does not look good. People live long enough to be productive little cogs in the machinery.
    After that their only value is in being indoctrinated to vote for the status quo, and considering the Covid mortality in red states, even then they are not valued highly.

  16. seachange says

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    You just did a post about science and humanities. Part of humanities is to know the social engineering thing. China murdered their people at the start of this graph, and they lie about everything as they do at the end of this graph. The US healthcare system and health is also othewise failing, most obvious example which won’t show on this graph yet: maternal death.

    Part of science is that this is at-birth and you have already survived this long. You have more than 12 years, dude. Stay alive.

    Actual news says when you talk about funding of one over the other, in such a way that results in us educating more foreign (not just Chinese) citizens than our own in engineering at our schools because our own citizens can’t handle the math and science, and in which they can steal tech and then go home? And then we buy their lies because lack of critical thinking? I guess China can be pleased.

  17. Walter Solomon says

    seachange @20

    Part of science is that this is at-birth and you have already survived this long. You have more than 12 years, dude.

    Which means deaths of very young children, which are relatively low in developed countries but still occur often unfortunately, figures into the average. This is not an individual’s maximum lifespan. If you’ve made it to the age of expectancy, it doesn’t mean you’re living on borrowed time.

  18. KG says


    It’s certainly true that the Chinese authorities lie routinely. But I’ve seen nothing that undermines their claim that they have largely kept Covid at very low levels – as have a number of other countries in eastern Asia and the Pacific.Their major failure has been reliance on relatively ineffective vaccines, and poor take-up even of those particularly among the elderly. That in turn is the reason they have adopted draconian measures against the relativel mild Omicron variant – if they let it run wild, as practically all countries are now doing, they would have a lot of deaths (I’ve seen an estimate of 1.5 million somewhere) and of course, far more people off sick, and many of those with long-term health damage. I haven’t, BTW, seen any evidence that anyone has literally starved to death as a result of their harsh lockdowns, but maybe you have some. Finally, note that the curve of Chinese life expectancy in the graph stops at 2020 (doesn’t say whether that’s the start, middle or end) so any effects either from Covid or lockdowns would not show.

    Incidentally, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is not mRNA (you didn’t say it was, but contrasted the Chinese-made inactivated virus vaccines first wit mRNA ones and then with the AstraZeneca, without noting that the latter is not mRNA-based. It’s a life chimanzee virus modified to carry SARS-Cov-2 spike proteins.

  19. whheydt says

    Re: Walter Solomon @ #21…
    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am living on borrowed time. It’s been borrowed from (relatively) modern medicine. In March 2000, I was told it was either cardiac bypass surgery or I’d be dead in six months. Understandably, I opted for surgery, so everything past about September 2000 is borrowed time.

    During a follow up appointment with the surgeon I was told to “change my lifestyle” or he’d have me back under the knife in 5 to 7 years. Being annoyed, I told him to reserve me a room in 6 years. The surgeon didn’t like that response. It been 22 years now, and no further cardiac surgery so far.

  20. silvrhalide says

    @22 I first saw the story about Chinese citizens starving to death in lockdowns in their apartments in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it video on ABC news (World News, I think). Can’t find the video on ABC’s website, it seems to have disappeared. I’ll post the link in the event that it shows up somewhere.

    Anecdotally, a number of my Chinese friends have confirmed this, as they have extended family members in China and there’s no guarantee that if they send food that it will reach the intended recipients. Chinese bureaucrats are notorious thieves. (My grandmother encountered the same problem when she was sending food to her relatives behind the Berlin Wall. Bureaucrats for totalitarian regimes inevitably morph into thieves.) Keep in mind that “starved to death in Chinese lockdown” is a definition-begging term… if you are already malnourished or have experienced an extended period of hunger due to lockdown, get sick and die (not necessarily from Covid), did the starvation/hunger/malnourishment kill you or did the disease (or cold, if the heat goes out, as it often does, depending on where you live)? Either way, it is certainly a contributing factor. It would be pretty much impossible to definitively declare a cause from a distance and in any event, a lot of these “cause of death” determinations are really in the eye (and discretion) of the medical examiner/coroner. Case in point: there were a LOT of AIDS deaths in the early days of the AIDS pandemic but they were never officially called AIDS deaths, it was usually declared as pneumonia, Karposi’s sarcomas, cancer, etc. Partially out of kindness, partially so the dead could be buried with dignity (remember all the fundamentalists who were screaming that AIDS was “God’s punishment for homosexuality”, as if gayness was only recently created by hippies in the sixties and seventies?) Herb Ritts’ official cause of death was pneumonia and literally everyone knew he died from AIDS. (He and Elizabeth Taylor were friends and it’s my understanding that he was getting his meds through Liz’s version of the Dallas Buyer’s Club.)

    I’m calling it deaths from starvation because 1) I think the story is more likely true than not; 2) because it’s almost certainly a factor in those deaths and 3) silence really does equal complicity in this case. Can you say which of Barry Bonds home runs were legit and which ones were from juicing? No. But only a fool would argue that his increased stats didn’t come from juicing with BalCo’s pharmaceuticals.

    I posted the part about the Chinese vaccines being inactivated SARS CoV-2 not the mRNA, which was taken directly from the original Nature link, but rephrased for clarity and grammar only. The entire article compares AstraZeneca vaccine to the two Chinese vaccines and marginally, to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Sorry if that was confusing but I only posted an excerpt, not the entire article, which looks as if it is free and not behind a paywall if you want to read the whole article.

    Holy shit, AstraZeneca used a live chimpanzee virus? Were their researchers the kind of kids who got their start by poking angry cobras with a sharp stick? How, exactly, is it that they are so confident that the vaccine won’t revert to wild type or mutate into something worse than the Covid 19 virus? Didn’t know that before you mentioned it, thanks for the update, less so for the nightmares sure to follow.