January 10, 2013 in Nation/World

Americans get dreadful health report

U.S. below average in nine areas among peer nations
Eryn Brown Los Angeles Times
 
Unhealthy nation

Among the alarming statistics:

• Americans consume an average of 3,770 calories per day, more than any country.

• Deaths from heart disease are at 129 per 100,000. Only Finland is higher.

• The premature birth rate (12 percent) is comparable to that of sub-Saharan Africa.

• The U.S. pregnancy rate for girls ages 15 to 19 was more than three times greater than the average of other countries.

Associated Press

Americans live shorter lives – and are in generally worse health – than citizens of other wealthy nations, according to an extensive report released Wednesday by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

The analysis of international health data determined that American men had the lowest life expectancy among men in 17 countries, including wealthy European nations, Australia, Canada and Japan. U.S. women had the second-lowest life expectancy (only Danish women fared worse.)

The study listed nine health areas in which Americans came in below average: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability.

The U.S. earned relatively high marks for its low cancer death rates and success controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the researchers said. But by and large, said panel chairman Dr. Steven H. Woolf during a phone call with reporters Wednesday, the team was “struck by the gravity of our findings,” which spanned the population.

“Even Americans who are white, insured, have college educations and seem to have healthy behaviors are in worse health than similar people in other nations,” said Woolf, a researcher who directs the Center for Human Needs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

The disparities were pervasive across all age groups up to 75, Woolf told the reporters, and seemed to stem from a variety of wide-ranging causes, including U.S. car culture, the number of uninsured people in the country, and weaknesses in our outpatient health care system.

Gun use emerged as a factor: Americans were seven times more likely to die in a homicide and 20 times more likely to die in a shooting than their peers. In all, two-thirds of the mortality disadvantage for American men was attributable to people under the age of 50 – and slightly over half of that resulted from injuries, said study collaborator Samuel Preston, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

It is possible that there’s something about American culture, and the high value it places on individualism and personal autonomy, that results in its poor performance, the researchers noted. It also may be that the U.S. is ahead of the curve on a general trend and that other nations will also start to experience the health problems that have been on the rise here since the 1980s, Preston said.

The panel called for further research, including coordination with other countries to see if any of their successful strategies or policies could be adapted to apply in the U.S. But Woolf stressed that Americans shouldn’t wait for new reports to act to combat factors such as obesity. “We know what to do,” he said. “It’s a matter of our society finding the resources to act.”

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus