U.S. Ranks Below Other Nations for Many Health Indicators, Report Finds
The U.S. spends more per person on health care than any other country, but U.S. residents are less healthy and have shorter life spans compared with individuals living in other developed countries, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, Reuters reports.
The report cited several reasons for the lower health and shorter life spans among U.S. residents, including a lack of access to health insurance, higher poverty levels and overeating (Heavey, Reuters, 1/9).
The study -- based on a broad review of data on health and longevity -- is the first of its kind to thoroughly compare death rates and health measures for people of all ages, including youth, the New York Times reports. The report was developed by a panel of experts, who examined data from the U.S. and 16 other developed countries (Tavernise, New York Times, 1/9). They included Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan (Reuters, 1/9).
Key Details of Report
The report showed that U.S. men had the shortest average life expectancy, at 75.6 years, which is nearly four years shorter than Switzerland, the best-performing country among men, the Wall Street Journal reports.
U.S. women had the second-shortest life expectancy, at 80.8 years, which is five years shorter than Japan, which had the highest average life expectancy for women (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 1/9).
According to the report, U.S. residents face the lowest probability of living up to 50. Deaths before age 50 accounted for nearly two-thirds of the difference in life expectancy between men in the U.S. and men in the other 16 countries, and about one-third of the difference for women (New York Times, 1/9).
Overall, the U.S. scored at or near the bottom in nine key indicators of health:
- Chronic lung disease;
- Drug-related deaths;
- General disability;
- Heart disease;
- Injuries and homicides;
- Low birth weight;
- Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; and
- Obesity and diabetes (Snider/Loehrke, USA Today, 1/10).
Further, the report showed that the U.S. had the highest diabetes rate and the second-highest death rate from a common form of heart disease and lung disease (New York Times, 1/9). It also showed that the U.S. had the highest rate of infant mortality (Reuters, 1/9).
Steven Woolf -- chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, who led the panel that developed the report -- said, "Something fundamental is going wrong," adding, "This is not the product of a particular administration or political party. Something at the core is causing the U.S. to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it's getting worse."
The panel offered a range of possible explanations for what they described as the U.S.'s "health disadvantage." They cited the nation's fragmented health care system, as well as the high rate of uninsured people and a limited number of primary care resources (New York Times, 1/9). The panel also said that many communities are designed in a way that tends to discourage physical activity, such as walking (Wall Street Journal, 1/9).
U.S. Performs Higher in Some Areas
The report did highlight some "bright spots" for the U.S., according to the Times. U.S. adults in general have better control over their cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and people over age 75 often outlive their foreign counterparts.
Death rates from cancers that can be detected early through tests, such as breast cancer, also are lower in the U.S., compared with the other countries. In addition, the U.S. has lower rates of suicide, the report said (New York Times, 1/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.