Everyone wants to live forever. But a study from USC and the National Academies suggests that if you'd like to see 51, it's time a lot of people stopped acting stupid. Americans spend more on health care than anyone, but are less healthy, birth to death, than residents in other developed countries. In fact, death before 50 accounts for about two-thirds of the difference between U.S. male life expectancy and guys in other nations. For women, not as bad.
U.S. residents are more likely to prematurely die of anything and everything, and the causes for that include many lifestyle-driven diseases such as diabetes and HIV. Are they really so much more fit and careful in Europe?
• Americans more commonly die in transportation accidents. The rate of death from violence is also significantly higher here, especially from firearms. Overall, the U.S. has the second-highest death rate from injuries (the outdoorsy types in icy Finland came in first).
• Americans are much more likely than people in peer countries to die from maternal conditions related to pregnancy. Since the 1990s, among high-income countries, U.S. teenagers have seen far higher rates of pregnancy. Add to that the fact that Americans are more likely to get sexually transmitted diseases.
• Though the incidence of AIDS has fallen in the last two decades, the U.S. still has the highest incidence among peer countries — and overall suffers the fourth-highest mortality from all communicable diseases (even worse off are Portugal, Japan and the U.K.).
• The U.S. has the highest prevalence of diabetes twinned with its staggering rates of obesity, a condition that now appears in childhood. Overall, the U.S. has the second-highest death rate from noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease (behind Denmark).
In the report, several likely explanations are given, with poverty the leading factor, followed by the fact that Americans live in big metropolitan areas where they must drive to get around. You could say that America is built around certain technologies that may make life easier, but don't always make it healthier.
There's also our poorly-managed health care system, and our penchant for unhealthy eating and other behaviors that significantly cut down life expectancy.
Eileen Crimmins is the AARP Chair in Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and she helped compile the report.
“The problem is not limited to people who are poor or uninsured,” says Crimmins. “Even Americans with health insurance, higher incomes, college education and healthy behaviors such as not smoking seem to be sicker than their counterparts in other countries.”
Declines in U.S. smoking and drinking are being offset by all that extra fat and sugar Americans consume. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, average daily consumption for a typical person living in the U.S. is 2,673 calories.
For a full copy of the report, “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” Go Here