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Life expectancy declining, FDA commissioner blames misinformation

The head of the FDA says a major reason Americans aren't expected to live as long is due to the spread of false health information.
Life expectancy declining, FDA commissioner blames misinformation
Posted at 3:20 PM, Apr 12, 2023

Life expectancy in the U.S. has declined in recent years and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf says misinformation is playing a role. 

Califf told CNBC that where people are getting their health information is leading to declining health outcomes. 

"Why aren't we using medical products as effectively and efficiently as our peer countries? A lot of it has to do with choices that people make because of the things that influenced their thinking," Califf told the outlet.

He told CNBC that rooting out misinformation remains a priority of his.

"You think about the impact of a single person reaching a billion people on the internet all over the world. We just weren't prepared for that," Califf told CNBC. "We don't have societal rules that are adjudicating it quite right, and I think it's impacting our health in very detrimental ways."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. life expectancy at birth has dropped from 78.8 years in 2019 to 76.1 years in 2021. Data for 2022 is not yet available. 

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With a 2.7-year drop in life expectancy in the last two years, it marked the largest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-23, the CDC said. At 76.1 years, it is also the lowest life expectancy the U.S. has had since 1996.

Health misinformation especially came to the forefront during the push to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC led efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. 

The issue of health misinformation isn't just an issue in the U.S. The World Health Organization noted the challenges of false health information spreading on social media platforms. 

"Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are critical in disseminating the rapid and far-reaching spread of information," said a review conducted by the WHO. The organization says, "Repercussions of misinformation on social media include such negative effects as 'an increase in erroneous interpretation of scientific knowledge, opinion polarization, escalating fear, and panic or decreased access to health care."

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