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May 2, 2006

Americans are Less Healthy

Topics: Health Issues

Take two similar populations - one from the United States and one from England. According to a new study reported in Jama, the American group will have a higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease:

"At every point in the social hierarchy there is more illness in the United States than in England and the differences are really dramatic," said study co-author Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London in England.

The study, appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, adds context to the already-known fact that the United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet trails in rankings of life expectancy.

The researchers sliced and diced their data by age, obesity, and income. In every sub-population Americans are less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy:
This conclusion is generally robust to control for a standard set of behavioral risk factors, including smoking, overweight, obesity, and alcohol drinking, which explain very little of these health differences.
The challenge now is to find an explation by deducing the cause of the observed phenomenon from the large set of correlated variables, those that were observed and many that remain unobserved. England has a significantly different health care system and we can expect those in favor of socialized medicine to exploit the study results. However, doctors quoted in the article referenced above are quite cautious about this conclusion to the point of discounting it entirely
:"It's not just how we treat people when they get ill, but why they get ill in the first place," [co-author Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London in England]said.

So, why are Americans less healthy? I've got a few ideas and they related to expectations, stress, sleep and lifestyle.

Posted by tim at May 2, 2006 4:10 PM

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