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Americans Less Healthy, But Outlive Brits 521

Posted by timothy
from the cross-cultural-croaking-comparison dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this intriguing snippet: "Older Americans are less healthy than their English counterparts, but they live as long or even longer than their English peers, according to a new study by researchers from the RAND Corporation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London. Researchers found that while Americans aged 55 to 64 have higher rates of chronic diseases than their peers in England, they died at about the same rate. And Americans age 65 and older — while still sicker than their English peers — had a lower death rate than similar people in England, according to findings published in the journal Demography."
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Americans Less Healthy, But Outlive Brits

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  • Re:Well, duh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2010 @06:49AM (#34146224)

    Icelanders have the highest longevity, and they get more rain and wind than the British.

  • Even so! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hitman_Frost (798840) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @06:49AM (#34146226)

    Despite all this clever wording, Americans do not outlive Brits in the vast majority of cases.

    USA - Male life expectancy 75.6 years, female 80.8 years.
    UK - Male life expectancy 77.2 years, female 81.6 years.

    Notice how one set of numbers are larger than the others.

  • Politics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:07AM (#34146288)

    I know some politicians will use a study like this to argue that single payer health care is a bad idea, but when you consider that this study looked at older citizens, who tend (in America) to be on Medicare (our single payer health care), it seems to suggest that that program isn't so bad after all.

    Of course, you have climate, pollution, diet, genetics, and a dozen different factors that you can't control for when you compare Americans and Brits. So studies like this one are probably pretty useless.

    It would be interesting if you could take a group of senior citizens and split them up three ways: no insurance, single payer (Medicare), and traditional health insurance. Then see who lives longest.

  • by IrquiM (471313) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:15AM (#34146324) Homepage
    I read somewhere that this has to do with religion... A religious person is more afraid of throwing in the towel than a non-religious person, as they are afraid of might be waiting for them in the afterlife.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:16AM (#34146326)

    It has been my experience that Americans hold onto life harder than almost anyone else on the planet. There is no saying "Well, that's enough then." There is no accepting the inevitable. No matter how sick, how weak, how miserable a person is, in the US it seems that it's still better than throwing in the towel.

    I wonder if this has to do with the American Religious Right and the rather bleak picture they paint of the afterlife where the absolute best you can hope for is an eternity under a sadistic, totalitarian and arbitrary demon-god who makes a passable impression of Hitler (but more likely you'll burn in Hell due to some slight doctrinal misunderstanding)? Offhand, I can't think of anyone else with such dim prospects - Atheists think they'll face peaceful oblivion, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims think they'll face a generally benevolent deity, Hindus think they'll get re-incarnated, Buddhists think they'll be re-incarnated or reach Nirvana, etc. etc.

    It seems to me that nobody else has as much reason to fear death than Americans. If you thought you'd face after death a being whose defining characteristics are hating gays/communists/arabs/whatever and torturing anyone who annoys him in horrible ways, wouldn't you cling to life with desperate zeal? Talk about your self-inflicted Hell.

  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:44AM (#34146394) Homepage
    There're many other factors... Such as amount of money spend on health care... For instance the US spends more than twice as much on heath care per citizen as the UK (and the US doesn't even cover all of their citizen).
    That's according to OECD: http://tinyurl.com/cr9753 [tinyurl.com]
  • Re:Well, duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:09AM (#34146478) Journal
    If you want to talk reality, forget beer comparisons, try cheese. America is home to the worlds most disgusting cheese. This is the country that invented spray on cheese. Everytime I talk about American cheese with Americans, they say, 'ah, but we do have good cheeses, you just have to look for them.' And they try to give me some Wisconsin cheddar which admittedly is not awful, just bad. I don't know what it is. The US has contributed some fantastic music, movies, plays, inventions, economic theories, software and people to the world. Really great, great stuff.

    But what you call cheese could kill a rhino at ten paces.
  • Effects of the war (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:12AM (#34146492)
    65 years is an interesting age, namely thats how many years ago the war ended. While the war wasn't as hard on England as it was most of the rest of Europe there was significant shortages and rationing when compared to the youth of the US during that same time period. There are a lot of studies nowadays that basically say that malnourishment during childhood can have negative effects all throughout a persons life. I wonder if the war has anything to do with the people over 65 dying at higher rates than the US.
  • Re:Well, duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:15AM (#34146514) Journal

    Sad where it's gone since then - I blame Prohibition, myself.

    Prohibition is the reason that Americans perceive that beer should be served very cold. Back then, people were glad of any beer that they could get, so speakeasys sold really cheap crap produced in someone's back room. Chilling it deadened the taste buds and removed the horrible yeasty taste. By the time it got back to room temperature, it was completely undrinkable.

    In contrast, a decent ale is still very nice at that temperature. There are some really good beers in the USA (I particularly like some of the amber ales, which are very hard to get on this side of the pond), but massive advertising by the crap beer companies have reinforced the notion that beer should be served at a temperature that prevents you from tasting it, so they're hard to find.

  • Re:clearly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:32AM (#34146568)
    The numbers are slightly strange

    The numbers are badly skewed by the fact that what happens earlier is highly significant.

    Consider a previous study (in the 1980's I believe). It showed that Electronic Engineers in the US were far more likely than others to die in their 40's of exposure to PCBs. This lead to panic about Poly Chlorinated Biphenys, which are used in transformers.

    Once the panic settled down, it was discovered that polychlorinated biphenyls are only used in power distribution transformers (ie in substations), whihc most EEs are never exposed to at all. However, almost all EEs were exposed to Printed Circuit Boards. Statistical analyists were not exposed to neither, and could not the difference between a liquid and a solid. The reason for the discrepancy in the death rate was that EEs lived much longer than their peers because they were not sent to Vietnam, and were much more likely to die of health problems in the 40's because their peers died of gunshot wounds at the atge of ne-ne-ne--nineteen.

    Moral: Trust statistics only after you personally have discovered how far you can throw them. (Chucking them into a WPB is a well proven strategy).

  • by icebrain (944107) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @08:33AM (#34146570)

    Or, we can look for an answer that doesn't paint most of us as backwards hyper-religious hicks... I know that (especially from the outside) it certainly seems like we are from all the news coverage and wacky stories, but most people here who are religious follow a gentler, kinder, more accepting version.

    The "religious right" is a fairly small minority, but a very vocal one with higher turnout numbers than average. Unfortunately, those of us who share [i]some[/i] views considered right wing (eg, my views on taxes, many social programs, and guns) get lumped together with those assholes, even though we also support plenty of those things that they don't (gay rights, fair and unbiased policies for legal immigration, upholding of true freedom of speech, separation of church and state, etc).

    Anyway, I'm getting off-topic. I would suggest that a non-religious reason for not giving up or resigning ourselves is just a "don't ever give up" mentality.

  • Re:clearly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday November 06, 2010 @09:09AM (#34146686) Homepage Journal

    Clearly this is because of our lack of socialized healthcare, and this is no other factor that could possibly affect this.

    Actually, this is quite possible.

    You'll note that the "Rand Corporation" only collected data for this study from 2002-2006. That's when the life expectancy trend was really starting to show up.

    Second, you'll note that for some reason, they compared the US to Great Britain. If they had used other countries with what you so quaintly call "socialized medicine" the results would show that the US was not doing quite so well in the health and life expectancy olympics.

  • Re:Well, duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fozzyuw (950608) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @09:38AM (#34146800)

    If you want to talk reality, forget beer comparisons, try cheese.

    Disclaimer. I was born and raise in Wisconsin. In fact I still live here. I went to London for a year for school and married a French women. I've spent lot of time in France, a country that prides itself in cheese. In the US, Wisconsin prides itself for it's dairy products, including cheese.

    America is home to the worlds most disgusting cheese.

    I wouldn't go that far. It's certainly not as good as Europe, but there are reasons for the lack of variety and therefor flavor in cheese.

    And they try to give me some Wisconsin cheddar which admittedly is not awful

    That's because it's not awful, it's good. The problem is that cheddar simply is a bland cheese. Of course, you do have to find the good stuff. What cheese lover really gets existed over *chedder*?! lol It can go great on burgers (I still prefer swiss) but it's simply a dull cheese and that's not Wisconsin's fault. It's just as bad in Chedder England.

    I don't know what it is.

    It has to do with milk pasteurization laws. It prevents a lot of cheeses from being made. Lots of them goat cheese. That's why goat cheese in the US is always the same terrible crappy stuff and why you never see the variety of cheese you have in Europe. It has really grown to be a cultural thing.

    But likewise, these same laws are the reason you don't see boxes of milk on store shelves, outside of refrigeration units. I was confused the first time I was in France at my wife's house and I had some cereal for breakfast. She had me pull a box of milk from the pantry. I thought all milk had to be kept refrigerated. Then we talked with the shop owner of Nalaa's cheese in Green Bay. He explained the pasteurization laws and why we can't get the good variety of cheese here and how he was limited on what he could import and sell.

    American's who haven't spent much time outside of the US simply don't get exposed to what's out there. And those that do, might not be brave enough to ever try it because some of that cheese simply smells like a rotten skunk carcass in the Texas heat, but tastes like the heavens. But many people won't get past that smell. Case in point, we've turned many of my friends onto Rachlette cheese. That's not as pungent as some goat cheeses, but some had some real reservations of ever trying it. It smells up the kitchen when cutting it (who cut the cheese? There's a reason for that phrase).

    Of course, one of the biggest complements at my recent wedding (in France) was the fact that we had a cheese buffet. A table with over 30 types of cheeses on it. You've never seen American's so confused and pleased. I shocked one of my friends to go and eat every kind of cheese he could find.

    It really is a cheese repression.

    Now, beer. Microbrews have really come a long way to pass by the basic Miller and Bud products we have. You can find some pretty good tasting beer in Wisconsin. New Glarus, Leienenkugels, Capital Brew, etc. are good beer. It's also much more expensive and in a place like Wisconsin where quantity can seem more important than quality, you'll find people still turn to Miller or Bud Light. And when you're use to drinking bland for so long, having something with flavor becomes too much of a shock.

    I think the UK has a better quality average, but the US also suffers from gimmicks. There's a billion beer makers with a billion private label beers each trying to sound like their beer is something new or different. This one has LIME! This one has LEMON! This one is called "Fat Squirrel", this is "Moose Drool", oh, look, a Monty Python branded beer! Here's a Pumpkin beer!

    *sigh*

    It's complicated.

    Point is, Wisconsin doesn't have crap for cheese. What they do make is good, but what they do make really isn't good cheese to begin with. You can thank US laws and now US culture as it

  • by Martin Spamer (244245) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @10:16AM (#34146952) Homepage Journal

    Real ale is fresh living beer that undergoes a natural second fermentation in the cask. Like any natural live product, the beer will mature age and ultimately go off. Real Ale must therefore be drunk within a strict timescale. Real ales requires proper handling on its way to the pub, and care within the pub to bring it to condition for serving. However, real ale can reach its full flavour potential, without chilling, filtration, pasteurisation and added gas.

    Keg Beer, mass produced, often pasteurised, dead, with C02 gas added. The reason it is chilled is to inhibit a natural secondary fermentation.

    Campaign for Real Ale definition of Real Ale [camra.org.uk].

  • Re:Well, duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by at_slashdot (674436) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:21AM (#34147298)

    I doubt that's the entire explanation, Americans like all their drinks cold, they serve water with ice even in the middle of winter.

  • by Kijori (897770) <ward...jake@@@gmail...com> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:34AM (#34147364)

    While I accept that that is probably much closer to the conscious aims of American people, I think your original post captures the reality better. This isn't just a disinclination to help other people, it's a preference to spend more money, therefore disadvantaging yourself, in order to avoid conferring a gratuitous benefit upon someone else.

    While I can respect the position that people should provide for themselves I find it very difficult to respect the position that it is always preferable to avoid paying for someone else, even if avoiding paying for others in fact makes your own life harder.

  • follow the money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nido (102070) <nido56&yahoo,com> on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:35AM (#34147366) Homepage

    But USA health care is profit oriented, and there is more profit to be made in selling snake oil than there is in treating diseases.

    There, fixed that for you. Seriously. I talked to a guy with high blood pressure recently. his doctor wants to put him on drugs, but he's not so sure.

    I commented that well over 1/2 of the population doesn't get even the RDA of magnesium in their diet. high blood pressure is usually related to stress, and how can one relax if they don't have enough of the relaxation mineral in their diet?

    I did some more reading, and the "life extension" people (Pearson & Shaw) say that potassium bicarbonate [life-enhancement.com] can help with blood pressure too.

    A little Mg, KHCO3, and daily total-body relaxation will deprive the pharmaceutical complex of years of income for treating the symptom of high blood pressure. I guess I don't get why doctors refuse to treat a symptom by addressing the causes.

    Allopathic health care treats symptoms, and Obamacare continues this fine tradition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2010 @11:59AM (#34147490)

    It just proves to me that our health care was already better. Look at how much fatter Americans are, and how much more infrequently they visit the doctor, yet how close their life expectancy is, and how after 65 they outlive the hell out of Canada/Britain (when they actually realize that maybe they should go to a doctor more than once every 15 years).

  • by feepness (543479) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @12:38PM (#34147666) Homepage
    Is that the same people who will cry that we should question climate change science will rush to accept this study on the face of it.

    Of course, that works in reverse. The same people who say we should "trust the experts because we don't have degrees in this", will be first in line to question it.

    Ahhh, partisan hypocrisy, may you never die.
  • Obvious other cause (Score:3, Interesting)

    by williamhb (758070) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:07PM (#34149860) Journal

    I think it's more likely that the metric used to measure health is a poor predictor of life expectancy. In fact, the article actually demonstrates as much. This could be because, say, the ability to run a few miles or the number of days spent with a cold each year might indicate good health, but doesn't mean you won't come down with a bad case of cancer or something else that may actually kill you. I suspect Americans are in worse overall health because they're less active and more overweight, wheras brits consume a whole lot more alcohol.

    Even if the metric is a good predictor, the conclusions are still bogus. The medical system is not the "cause of death", so attributing death rates without considering the causes is silly. The UK has 36,700 more deaths in winter than in summer, mostly among the elderly. (Your blood thickens when you are cold and you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.) So the most likely cause of the difference in death rates would be that US homes are better insulated, being generally newer, and have better heating. I'd guess social factors also have a big impact. The elderly in the UK probably have less contact with the community than in the US (social breakdown is a bit of a problem in Britain at the moment), with impacts like "you didn't have friends looking in on you every day, so nobody told you you should really see a doctor about that."

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @07:36PM (#34150070) Journal

    Actually, it's more of the dangers of the lifestyle in general. More people are killed from more reckless behavior in the US then in the UK. We do more stupid shit on a regular basis like give some types of guns to anyone over 18 based on nothing more then their desire to have them. We allow juveniles to handle loaded firearms and other weapons (Bow and Arrows) unsupervised for extended lengths of time (while hunting) and so on. We have one of the largest recreational boating populations in the western world, some of the largest lands allotted to motorcycle, quad-atv, and other recreational uses.

    But probably the number one risk that would alter the life expectancy quite a bit would be cars. In the US, there is/was about 2.28 cars per household (in 2008) [autospies.com] while only about 1.1 cars per household in the UK (at about the time- from 2008 to 2009 [carbonindependent.org]). This means that more people are driving in the US then in the UK. Gas is also cheaper which generally means that more people are driving for recreational uses verses more restrictive usage like necessities and so on. But something that probably would make this skewed even more would be that in the UK, you typically have to be 17 to get a drivers license and even then, you are restricted to what types of cars you can drive until your 18 or 21. In the US, it differs from state to state, but in most cases, you can start driving at 16 years of age, there is no limits on the types of cars (or non-commercial trucks) and in some areas, with certain hardships you can get a drivers license at age 14 (Ohio is one).

    A reflection of this is strongly shown in the UK traffic death statistics [statistics.gov.uk] in which they listed that in 2006, there were 5.4 road accident deaths per 100,000 population in the UK compared to 14.3 per 100,000 populations in the US. I don't car where you are, if you have almost three times as many people dieing from more or less random occurrences, the life expectancy will be lower and it won't be much on the grounds of health care provided Health care provided is equal in traffic fatalities because it's all either not in the equation (dead on the scene) or life threatening injuries in which not only does car insurance cover, it's illegal in the US for a hospital open to the public to refuse or limit emergency medical treatment based around the ability to pay.

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Saturday November 06, 2010 @09:00PM (#34150848) Homepage Journal

    >>Yes, government *insurance* is very efficient. See a comparison of Medicare v. Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage is one of the most inefficient programs we have. We basically subsidize private insurers to do what Medicare already does more cheaply.
    >>Government health-care? That's a different ball of wax.

    You got it backwards.

    Medicare? Medicaid? Cheaply? Only in the sense they underpay for certain services, which means that hospitals compensate by overusing the services they make a profit on, and fucking the taxpayer in the process. If Medicare worked efficiently, it could run on half the money it does know (and incidentally help balance the budget - crazy notion, I know!) Up to half of this - our biggest federal expenditure - goes to waste and fraud.

    To compare with the VA system, Medicare/Medicaid costs about $10k per patient covered, including patient contributions. VA, $2,500 per patient covered, including money from third parties. This it's a perfect comparison for a lot of reasons, but it does help show how badly run Medicare/Medicaid is.

    (Medicare Advantage is a whole 'nother issue entirely.)

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