Americans Sicker, Die Younger Than Other Developed Nations

Pattern of poorer health means Americans less likely to live to age 50

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Americans have worse health than their peers in high-income countries, according to a report published Jan. 9 by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.

Stephen H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and colleagues examined life expectancy and health in the United States and compared U.S. data with that of 16 other high-income democracies, including Canada, Australia, Japan, and countries in Western Europe. Historical trends were reviewed beginning in the 1970s, with most of the data in the report coming from the late 1990s through 2008.

The researchers found that the United States fares worse than other counties in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Many of these conditions affect young people, reducing the likelihood of Americans living to age 50. Health advantages of the United States include lower cancer death rates; improved blood pressure and cholesterol control; and seniors over age 75 living longer. Factors influencing the U.S. health disadvantage include health systems which leave a relatively large uninsured population; poor health behaviors, including high calorie consumption and higher rates of drug abuse; poor socioeconomic conditions; and physical environments designed around cars.

"Research is important, but we should not wait for more data before taking action, because we already know what to do," Woolf said in a statement. "If we fail to act, the disadvantage will continue to worsen and our children will face shorter lives and greater rates of illness than their peers in other rich nations."

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