Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Does the U.S. Rank So Low in Life Expectancy?
Americans did younger and have more illnesses and accidents than people in other countries.
Louise Radnofsky, “U.S. Lags Peers in Life Expectancy, “ Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2013
January 10, 2013 – Why do Americans die sooner than citizens in other affluent countries?  We definitely do, as shown in these data from the National Research Council.
Average life expectancy at birth for men (2007 data)

1.      Switzerland, 79.33

2.      Australia, 79.27

3.      Japan, 79.20

4.      Sweden, 78.92

5.      Italy, 78.82

6.      Canada, 76.35

7.      Norway, 78.25

8.      Netherlands, 7801

9.      Spain, 77.02

10.  UK, 77.43

11.  France, 77.41

12.  Austria, 77.33

13.  Germany, 77.11

14.  Denmark, 76.13

15.  Finland, 75.86

16.  US,75.64

Not a pretty picture.   How could this be? We spend twice as much as any other country, and our medical technologies and medical training are considered the world’s best.
Maybe it’s our free-wheeling American culture.  Our short male life expectancy is  due almost exclusively to high mortality rates for man under 50 from car crashes, accident¸ and violence.  The life expectancy of black males in some inner cities is less than 40.
The short life could be due partly to gun violence and the high level of gun ownership in the U.S.  The U.S, has a gun ownership rate of 88 per 100 with gun homicide rates of 2.97 per 1000 people compared to rates of 15  per 100 and 0.14 in Australia and 6 per 100 and 0.007 per 1000 in the the U.K.
Other factors are low exercise rates due to high car ownership,  violent  video game, and  sedentary computer addiction;  lack of sidewalks and walking areas;  air pollution, fast food and processed food consumption, and high rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension,  and heart and lung disease.
What can doctors do about this dire situation?   Not much, says Steven Woolf. MD, who chaired  the committee who wrote the National Research Committee report, “Our health as Americans s only partly aided by having a very good health system. Much of our diseases comes from factors outside of the clinical system and outside of what doctors and hospitals do.”
The good news is that Americans who live past 75 have higher survival rates and longer life expectancies from cancer, stroke ,and heart disease,  and are better controlled for hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking rates, and use of alcohol than their international  cohorts.
So hang in there past 75.  You will live longer than your peers in other countries when you’re older.  It’s never too late to improve your health.

The Physicians Foundation has taken  steps  to improve the health of Americans  by  doing reseach studies, conducting national surveys,  issuing white papers, creating physician courses, and issuing over $20 million in grants to physician practices and other health care organizations to  enhance our health and longevity within the context of the present health system,  its demographics, and American culture.
Tweet: Americans do not live as long as their peers in other countries, but once past 75 live longer in better health.

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