Inefficiency Hurts U.S. in Longevity Rankings

By any measure, the United States spends more on health care than any other nation. Yet according to the World Fact Book (published by the Central Intelligence Agency), it ranks 49th in life expectancy.

Why?

Researchers writing in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs say they know the answer. After citing statistical evidence showing that American patterns of obesitysmoking, traffic accidents and homicide are not the cause of lower life expectancy, they conclude that the problem is the health care system.

Peter A. Muennig and Sherry A. Glied, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, compared the performance of the United States and 12 other industrialized nations: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In addition to health care expenditures in each country, they focused on two other important statistics: 15-year survival for people at 45 years and for those at 65 years.

The researchers say those numbers present an accurate picture of public health because they measure a country’s success in preventing and treating the most common causes of death — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes — which are more likely to occur at these ages. Their data come from the World Health Organization and cover 1975 to 2005.

Life expectancy increased over those years in all 13 countries, and so did health care costs. But the United States had the lowest increase in life expectancy and the highest increase in costs.

– More…

– Research thanks to Rolf A.

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