(Cleveland) - A new study finds Americans are living longer than they did 20 years ago, but our life expectancy still lags way behind many other countries.

And it is illness and chronic disability that are keeping the numbers down.

Dr. Mike Roizen did not take part in the study, but is the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.

Dr. Roizen says, “This should make us humble because we’ve fallen. We’re in the middle, about 28th or so in the countries with both life expectancy and worsen disability rates. These are things that are going to cost us our standard of living. These are things that are going to cause rationing in health care if we don’t change them.“

University of Washington researchers led the study, which compared the overall health of Americans to people living in 34 other countries.

They found that life expectancy in the U.S. increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010, but 26 countries have higher life expectancies.

They’re living longer in places like Australia, Germany, and even Iceland. But it’s Japan that tops the list at 82.6 years.

“Japan has a lower smoking rate and a lower, if you will, chronic obstructive disease rate, lower heart disease rate; almost every one of the factors that is important in long-term health, they have less of,” says Dr. Roizen.

Diseases like ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke account for the largest number of premature deaths in the U.S., but injuries like car and motorcycle crashes also take their toll.

Researchers do concede that although the overall health of people living in the United States did improve over the last 20 years, it did not keep pace with other wealthy nations.

Dr. Roizen says we hold the power to change all of that.

“This should be a wake-up call for each family to say what can we do as a family, what can we do as a small community to make each of us live healthier,” says Dr. Roizen.

Complete findings are available online on the website of the “Journal of the American Medical Association.”

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(Copyright © 2013 by Clear Channel, all rights reserved. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.)