Why do Americans die younger than Britons?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Why do Americans die younger than Britons?
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 10:11am

Why is that so many in the US are against the proposed healthcare bill or even a more equitable healthcare system?

I know life style can't be legislated but shouldn't more emphasis be put upon a healthy likestyle? Meanwhile many schools are cutting PE & sports activities for "lack of funds".

Any thoughts, ideas?



New life expectancy figures show Americans some way behind countries like Canada, the UK and Australia. Why?

Living in the world's richest country comes at a price, and it's measured in life years.

Men in the US are on average aged 75 when they die. That is 1.5 years younger than men in the UK and 3.5 years younger than men in Australia, says a new study.

American women live on average to just under 81 - about three years younger than the average Australian woman.

While life expectancy in the US continues to improve, says the report by researchers at University of Washington in Seattle and Imperial College, London, it is not increasing as quickly as in other Western countries, so the gap is widening.

"The researchers suggest that the relatively low life expectancies in the US cannot be explained by the size of the nation, racial diversity, or economics," says the document, which ranks the US 38th in the world for life expectancy overall.

"Instead, the authors point to high rates of obesity, tobacco use and other preventable risk factors for an early death as the leading drivers of the gap between the US and other nations."

"We weren't surprised that we had lower life expectancies than other countries, but we were surprised by the fact that we were falling further behind," says Dr Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Take a country like Australia, he says. "It also has a nation of immigrants. It also is a relatively young country. It has similar socioeconomic characteristics.

"It has an obesity problem, and yet it has continued to improve in life expectancy and remains one of the healthiest nations in the world."

So how should the US address these risk factors?

Smoking alone is responsible for one out of every five deaths in the US, the professor says, yet the US has not been as tough as Australia in restricting tobacco advertising and public smoking.

Australia also has a greater focus on primary care - which helps with health education, and early treatment of any problems - and it has done a good job reducing the number of road traffic accidents, he adds.

The US could also save 100,000 lives a year by reducing salt in people's diets, since high blood pressure kills one in six people, Dr Mokdad says.

Then there's the big issue - about one in three adults is classified as obese. That's about 10 times as many as in long-living countries like Japan, according to OECD figures.

But the US is a big country, and while parts of Mississippi have a male life expectancy of 67, behind nations like the Philippines, women in areas of Florida live as long, on average, as the Japanese, who top the longevity rankings.

It is precisely this kind of inequality that goes some way to explain why the US - and the UK to a lesser degree - lag behind other countries, according to Danny Dorling, a professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

He believes a more even distribution of wealth, even if the average were lower, could mean longer lives for everyone.

"I think stress is a part of it - this is the key thesis of Michael Marmot and his book on the status syndrome. People get worn out faster with greater inequality.

"However there is much more. If you have most health spending just going on a few people who have the best health to begin with - [as in] the US system - that is hardly efficient.

"In a more unequal rich country more doctors are working on things like plastic surgery. More dentists whiten teeth than fix bad teeth and so on."

Infant deaths

While it is not surprising that poor Americans lose out from inequality, Prof Dorling argues that the rich may suffer too.

"Top income groups are badly affected because their doctors are not necessarily mainly interested in their health but work for organisations that have to make an income," he says.

"I am not suggesting it is deliberate but you make more money out of a patient who spends more on many drugs and investigatory operations than one who lives longer with less intervention.

"In a more equal system the rich who are well get less intervention - and they live longer in the UK than the US."

Growing income inequality in the UK, since the 1970s, has has helped to push it down the European life expectancy rankings, says Mr Dorling.

However, life expectancy is not just about forecasts made for newborn babies.

When you look at life expectancy at 65, the US does perform well, says Svetlana Ukraintseva, research scientist at the Center for Population Health and Aging (CPHA) at Duke University in North Carolina.

Elderly Americans have a higher chance of surviving heart disease and many cancers than their counterparts in other rich countries, she says. Where the US lags behind is what happens at a much younger age. Infant mortality rates are high, she points out.

"So it's not the medical system itself that is the problem but access to it," she says.

"Medical insurance for all might help."

This is one goal of the healthcare reform signed into law in March 2010, which will oblige American adults to have health insurance when it comes into force in 2014.

However, this remains a controversial idea in the US and the legislation could yet come unstuck.

Challenges to the constitutionality of the law are working their way through the courts, and fierce opponents in the Republican Party make no secret of their desire to repeal the legislation if the opportunity arises.




iVillage Member
Registered: 11-27-2009
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 1:05pm

Yes, we need to place an emphasis on health lifestyle.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 1:06pm
Preventative check-ups as well as being at least taught a healthy lifestyle (whether one follows it or not) would be a big first step.

Americans also seem to have this 'give me a pill & make it go away' mentality. We want everything to be 'easy & right now'.

I also think that the need to 'have more stuff' might be influence. Americans are stressed. We work more hours on average than Europeans. We have less vacation time too.

However, the Japanese are more compulsive about working than even we are...but they tend to have a much healthier diet & it seems like they exercise more too.

Okay, enough rambling!! ;)


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-27-2009
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 1:54pm
You're right, it's life style. It can be boiled down to poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 3:18pm

Thank you for the links... I listened to the shorter of the two.

Besides rewarding healthy lifestyles &/or charging for poor choices by employers or private insurance I didn't hear actual solutions.Though naturally I agree with healthy lifestyle.

I don't think it's ideal for employers to have to deal with health insurance, although it's the type I now have through my DH's company.

I was born & raised in England into my 20's before emigrating to the US. Therefore I experienced the NHS first hand. Yes taxes are higher but everyone is covered.... No worries about a needed procedure being performed. Doctors are not paid by how many tests they run, or operations they perform, but by the health of their patients.

I was disappointed in the results of "Obama's" healthcare reform. It didn't go far enough IMO.

The NHS - The United Kingdom's Healthcare System


It's appears some states are in really bad shape... In more ways than one.........

Full Ranking: America's Healthiest And Unhealthiest States




iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 3:22pm

"Preventative check-ups as well as being at least taught a healthy lifestyle (whether one follows it or not) would be a big first step."

A big yes for preventative check-ups!

"Americans also seem to have this 'give me a pill & make it go away' mentality. We want everything to be 'easy & right now'."

One reason I don't think the pharm's should run commercials on TV though I'm sure it's lucrative.



iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 3:32pm
That's 'great' continue to encourage children to make poor unhealthy choices. Children don't have lobbyists or make campaign contributions. :smileysad:



iVillage Member
Registered: 11-27-2009
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 4:22pm
try the full one.

I don't remember anything about charging for for choices, where did you hear that?
A lot of very good points were made at that hearing. It's not the complete answer, but it's a very important step that is missing from any mainstream discussion I've heard. Shame it's dismissed so easily.
I've happened to have read a bit on NHS. This, "Doctors are not paid by how many tests they run, or operations they perform, but by the health of their patients." however I don't recall. How is it that this is evaluating. How is free will of patient choice and nuances like heredity and age dealt with? Mostly the patients follow through.
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-27-2009
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 4:29pm
I'm not talking about check ups. They are nothing but a feel good intervention. Might something be caught early? Sure. I'm talking about prevention steps that prevent the development of disease. We can't completely irradiate heart disease and diabetes and such, but through true prevention we can decrease the incidence and lower the heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and other obesity complications by steps that change lifestyles. So far going to the Dr hasn't been very successful getting people to stop smoking, exercise or eat healthier.
Now, when it comes to checkups to monitor a disease state and provide education (which is sorely limited and lacking)........
The one benefit of pharm commercials, they get the patient asking their Dr. questions. I don't like that the focus is then the medication.
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-27-2009
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 4:35pm
Incidental consequences can't be ignored. I think that messing with food is a problem. There is too much overlay and as in the article you posted, some foods that probably shouldn't be targeted, get caught up in the regulations, and as in my article some that should escape regulation.

In Illinois they passed an extra tax on candy, soda and the like. junk food. KitKat's don't qualify. They are made with flour.
Aug 24, 2009
"Junk Food" Tax Confuses Illinois Retailers

By Other
CHICAGO -- With Illinois’ new "Junk Food" tax taking effect Sept. 1, retailers across the state are struggling to implement the widespread and erratic changes imposed by the legislation, according to an article by Examiner.com.

The tax changes effectively raise currently low sales tax on certain candy and soft drinks within the state to the "general merchandise" rate of 6.25 percent. The tax increase was passed as part of budget negotiations and will help fund the state’s multi-billion dollar capital projects fund.

However, the state's definition of foods that fall under the candy and soft drink labels have left retailers scratching their heads and seeking further guidance, the report stated.

Under the guidelines, the state will consider any sugar-based product neither requiring refrigeration nor containing flour as candy. As a result, Hershey’s Kit Kat bars, containing flour, are no longer considered candy and are not subject to the increased tax. Likewise, Hershey’s Twizzlers and other licorice items, all of which are produced with flour, would no longer be considered candy, or taxed as such. While yogurt (requiring refrigeration) would still be considered a food product, yogurt-covered fruit is now considered candy and subject to the higher tax. Yogurt-covered pretzels, though, would still be considered food.

The confusion deepens when considering that a Hershey's chocolate bar would be considered candy, while the company’s Cookies and Cream bar (containing flour) next to it on the shelf would be considered a food item, according to the report.

The erratic definitions continue as retailers attempt to determine what is and is not a soft drink under the new law. While a vast majority would consider the term “soft drink” to refer to soda or certain juices, the state defines a soft drink as any non-alcoholic drink that contains natural or artificially flavors and/or sweeteners.

As a result, a bottle of iced tea would not be considered a soft drink, but if it is sweetened, then it falls under the additional tax. In addition, a bottle of flavored water that has zero calories and zero sugars is now subject to the more than 5-percent tax increase. However, a juice drink that contains more than 50 percent "real" fruit juice, and may be loaded with sugar, is not subject to the tax, the report noted.

The list of inconsistencies deepens as retailers comb the list of ingredients on products throughout the stores in an attempt to collect the proper tax. Unfortunately, many more retailers out of frustration and demands on time are likely to apply the tax across the board, resulting in consumers paying millions in taxes on items that do not fall under the state's "junk food" definitions, according to the Examiner.com report.

While large chains, with teams of researchers, legal staff and large amounts of resources, may find the changes to the law as a mere nuisance, small "mom and pop" retailers, convenience stores and gas stations will have to commit hours to combing the shelves, reading ingredients, reprogramming computer systems and consulting with accountants in order to comply with the tax laws that provide little specific guidance, the report stated.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-30-2002
Mon, 07-11-2011 - 8:04pm

I recently read an article (I'll try to find it and post it) that showed that when they studied 10,000 people