Wednesday, January 09, 2013

We're unhealthier than people in many other countries

By Maggie Fox
Jan. 9, 2013

Americans are far more unhealthy than people in 16 other developed countries, and it’s probably our own fault, experts reported on Wednesday. We die younger from diseases such as obesity and heart disease, and we are far more likely to be murdered and die in car accidents, the researchers at the National Academy of Sciences found.

U.S. culture has a lot to do with it and policymakers need to take action right away to reverse the trend, the experts who wrote the report advised.

"It's a tragedy. Our report found that an equally large, if not larger, disadvantage exists among younger Americans," said Dr. Steven Woolf, chair of the department of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, who chaired the panel.


Experts have complained for years that Americans spend far more on healthcare than people in other rich countries, yet have poorer health. The latest report from the federal government shows Americans spent more than $8,600 a year per person on healthcare – more than twice what countries such as Britain, France and Sweden spend, even with their universal healthcare systems.


Americans did worse in nine areas: infant mortality; injury and homicide rates; teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; the AIDS virus; drug abuse; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; lung disease; and disabilities.

And many of these affect young people, not the elderly. Americans are seven times more likely to be murdered than people in the other countries, and 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun.

"I don't think most parents know that, on average, infants, children, and adolescents in the U.S. die younger and have greater rates of illness and injury than youth in other countries,” Woolf said.

“For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other high-income countries,” the expert panel wrote.

There were a few bright spots. Americans have lower death rates from cancer, the No. 2 cause of death, and do better at controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. “Americans who reach age 75 can expect to live longer than people in the peer countries,” the report reads.

[Maybe because those who are not very healthy have already died by then.]

No one reason accounts for the differences, the experts said. It’s likely a combination of factors, from a U.S. reliance on cars that keeps us from exercising enough, to a love of fast foods, to rejection of being told what to do.

“We have a culture in our country … that cherishes personal autonomy and wants to limit intrusion of government and other entities upon our personal lives,” Woolf said. “Some of those forces may act against the ability to achieve optimal health outcomes.”

[There are a lot of idiots who, if they are informed that something is not good for them, will go out of their way to do it just to prove something.]


The United States has a higher infant mortality rate than the other countries, with 32.7 deaths per 100,000. Other countries have infant mortality rates between 15 and 25 deaths per 100,000.

U.S. men live the shortest lives, 75.6 years compared to 79 for Swiss men, who topped the charts. Most of the difference comes in men who die before they reach age 50. U.S. women, who can expect to live on average to just under 81 years, ranked second-last. Japanese women can expect to live to be 86.

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