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Medicine Stats United States Science

US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World 1063

Hugh Pickens writes "Louise Radnofsky reports that a study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has found U.S. life expectancy ranks near the bottom of 17 affluent countries. The U.S. is at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Americans fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese. The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, was the lowest among the 17 countries and almost four years shorter than for Switzerland, the best-performing nation. American women's average life expectancy is 80.8 years, the second-lowest among the countries and five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy. 'The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive — it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries,' say the report's authors. The authors offered a range of possible explanations for Americans' worse health and mortality, including social inequality, limited availability of contraception for teenagers, community designs that discourage physical activity such as walking, air pollution as well as individual behaviors such as high calorie consumption. The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. 'One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home,' reads the report. 'The statistics are dramatic.'"
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US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World

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  • Well... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:56AM (#42556853)

    ...let's get real: for the government, the insurance companies, the health care providers, etc, etc, etc, ad eternum...that's a good thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:58AM (#42556869)

    It's already been pointed out that the reason why the United States has "high" infant mortality is that we count ALL live births as a live birth. In some European countries, if the baby dies within a few minutes or a few hours it isn't counted as a live birth and therefore isn't part of the infant mortality numbers. In one country, I don't remember which one, if the baby dies with the first WEEK, it isn't counted as a live birth. So, yes, if you manipulate the numbers and redefine "live" birth, you can end up with a low infant mortality rate. On the other hand, if you count it as a live birth if the baby draws even a single breath or twitches, then your numbers do not mean the same thing.

  • Re:inequality (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:02AM (#42556915)

    obviouslt your agenda forbade you to read:

    "even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese."

  • junk science (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:08AM (#42556971)

    Doesn't the fact that the Swiss have a very high rate of gun ownership and the highest life expectancies negate their (idiotic) hypothesis that guns might account for the lowered life expectancies in the US? The accident rate for guns is actually quite low compared to many other types of accidental death (auto accidents, etc.).

    Since when did "scientists" get to editorialize in their research papers and make wild guesses in the closing paragraphs? Oh, but this isn't science is it.....


  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:09AM (#42556981)

    For fucks sake, read the fucking comment:

    Even the relatively affluent can get fired or laid off at the drop of a hat in the USA.

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Informative)

    by comp.sci ( 557773 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:17AM (#42557055)
    That is simply not true for two reasons: First, this is appears to not be peer-reviewed, and thus does not count as "medical research" by any means. It's a book / report they are publishing, it doesn't have the same weight as a peer-reviewed article in a medical journal. Second, while there definitely is commercial money in medical research, these studies are scrutinized very carefully before being accepted by the community. For every publication each author has to disclose financial interests and where all the money for the study came from. This is taken very seriously and these safeguards are working quite well. People often get confused by independent reports or white-papers by "think tanks" and think this is the same as peer reviewed academic research: it's not and the medical community knows that. One of the reasons why it's so hard to have an argument online and somebody posts a "study" that "debunks" a concept without keeping the above in mind.
  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:19AM (#42557077) Homepage
    Interestingly though (and contrairy to your comment), most of the reasons why life expectancy is lower in the U.S. happens before the age of 50. So the probability of a newborn child to even come to an age of 50 is lower than in any other of the 17 countries. So it's not the last 5 years that are important here (if you ever get 75 in the U.S., your life expectancy is on par with the rest of the countries), it's the deaths occuring before the age of 50 that make the numbers so miserable.
  • Re:Gun? *facepalm* (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:22AM (#42557101)

    Switzerland's "gun ownership" rate is not that high. Those guns are owned by the military, and there is rigorous control and training connected with them. Yes, they form part of what makes it expensive to attack the Swiss militarily. They are not employed for personal defense, however.

    The Swiss very much exercise gun control.

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:29AM (#42557191)

    #20 The U.S. has accumulated the biggest national debt that the world has ever seen

    Only because we have such large economy. If you scale by GDP, we don't even have the biggest debt that we've ever seen -- and plenty of countries are currently worse-off.

    It would be just as valid to say that the Eurozone has the biggest debt the world has ever seen.

    Right now, U.S. government debt is expanding at a rate of $40,000 per second.

    That's a completely meaningless figure. On the scale of first-world national economies, $40k is tiny. A second is also tiny. It's a less useful measurement than a light-nanosecond. Maybe as useful as a barn-parsec.

  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:30AM (#42557199)
    You really ought to normalize your numbers for population. The US is a pretty big country, and there are a lot of other countries where I would feel a lot less comfortable about walking down the street at night, or worse, having a woman walk down the street at night.
  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:36AM (#42557253)
    In case anyone was wondering, most of those aren't true. The car theft one especially is bullshit.
  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:44AM (#42557363) Homepage

    That is simply not true for two reasons: First, this is appears to not be peer-reviewed, and thus does not count as "medical research" by any means.

    Sorry. no. This is the National Academies of Science. This is pretty much the gold standard of peer review; you really can't do much better than that. And, yes, NAS reports are very extensively peer reviewed.

    You're right about this not being "medical research." This is a review. Reviews are not original research, they are summaries of research done by others-- in essence, a review is the peer review of an aggregate of studies.

    The report is here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13497 [nap.edu]

  • by kennelly ( 704333 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:54AM (#42557483)
    "the US ... had WW2. In Europe people hid from the guns and tried not to fight the germans... Where does say the U.K. fit in that list?" I can't allow that to stand. Far from "hiding", the UK entered WW2 well before the US, and sacrificed a significantly larger proportion of its population to fighting the Nazis than the US did - 384K UK military personnel died, 417K US. Full stats here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Human_losses_by_country [wikipedia.org] Of course the Soviet Union made the greatest sacrifice, by far, in terms of sheer numbers of deaths.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vlad_the_Inhaler ( 32958 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:58AM (#42557519) Homepage

    I saw another summary of this report a day ago (in a German language publication [spiegel.de]) and they included a detail missing from this particular summary. Healthcare in the US costs almost $8000 per capita, the median in the other countries was around $3200.

    Pretty much everything they measured (Diabetes, Heart problems, Lung problems, whatever) the US was way over at the wrong end of the table.

  • by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:59AM (#42557527)

    I'm undoing all my moderation to post this, but we need to do something about this.

    "Recently, Lazarou, Pomeranz, and Corey attempted to synthesize
    available data on fatalities from adverse drug events (excluding cases
    of medication error). To derive their estimate of 106,000 fatal
    adverse drug reactions in the United States in 1994, they drew on data
    from 16 studies of adverse drug reactions published between 1964 and
    1995. The studies cumulatively looked at 78 deaths, but only two of
    the studies had more than 10 deaths. Moreover, the 4 studies published
    after 1976 included a total of 5 deaths, compared with 73 in the 12
    earlier studies.
    Consequently, the projection of fatal adverse drug
    reactions in 1994 is based predominately on data from 20 years
    , when the use of pharmaceuticals was quite different. In
    addition, deaths were too few to arrive at a stable mortality estimate
    -- as even a small change in the number of deaths reported in the
    studies would lead to substantial changes in the number of deaths
    extrapolated to the national population".

    Gun deaths and accidental poisonings are based on the CDC's own counts and therefore potentially underestimate the figure because of unrecorded deaths. 'Adverse effects to drugs' is based on massive extrapolation from outdated data. One fact that should have immediately rung alarm bells for you is that the CDC's definition for 'accidental poisoning' *includes* both illegal and legal drug reactions. The OP is wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • Re:Well... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:01AM (#42557537)

    Toss out gang activity, illegal drug use, and well, being black and the numbers of gun violence are much more in line (as to not be significant) with other countries.

    If you remove all types and models of cars and trucks implicated in road accidents, then you will find that cars and trucks are the safest way to travel.

    What are you, an idiot?

  • by Specter ( 11099 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:02AM (#42557555) Journal

    Link to the full 424 page paper is here [nap.edu].

    Link to the (probably paywalled) WSJ article is here [wsj.com] although the Yahoo version in the summary above appears to be exactly the same.

  • Re:inequality (Score:5, Informative)

    by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:04AM (#42557573)

    The analysis could probably be tailored to fit any assertion you wanted to make. A breakdown by state in the US probably reveals significant discrepancies.

    And if the UK were split into constituent parts, no US state is likely to be worse than Scotland [bbc.co.uk] for general health and life expectancy.

    From the summary: "The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years"

    From your link: "Men in Scotland are expected to live for 76 years"

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ButchDeLoria ( 2772751 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:04AM (#42557583)
    But corporations ARE citizens.
  • by CyberDong ( 137370 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:08AM (#42557627)

    Interesting read... [wikipedia.org]

    The Swiss army has long been a militia trained and structured to rapidly respond against foreign aggression. Swiss males grow up expecting to undergo basic military training, usually at age 20 in the Rekrutenschule (German for "recruit school"), the initial boot camp, after which Swiss men remain part of the "militia" in reserve capacity until age 30 (age 34 for officers). Each such individual is required to keep his army-issued personal weapon (the 5.56x45mm Sig 550 rifle for enlisted personnel and/or the 9mm SIG-Sauer P220 semi-automatic pistol for officers, military police, medical and postal personnel) at home.

  • ", a review is the peer review of an aggregate of studies."
    absolutely not. a review is in no way a peer review.
    It's a reviews or maybe a meta study. Both are good for very specific things.

    And published in NAS does not necessarily mean peer review, or a good study. Some sloppy stuff in the last 10 years has appeared.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:24AM (#42557839) Homepage Journal

    No it isn't. Greece happened do to too little regulation in the lending market, and people abusing the lending market.
    SO called experts in the lending industry lied, and Greece made decision based on those lies. THAT is what happened. However members in the media in the US turned it into an anti-social policy meme

  • by chrylis ( 262281 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:24AM (#42557841)
  • Re:inequality (Score:5, Informative)

    by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:24AM (#42557847)

    About 17 of them do. Your link shows a life expectancy of 80 for women and 76 for men. It doesn't give decimal places, or overall numbers, but 78ish is probably pretty close. According to wikis list of US States life expectance 17 (and DC) below 78. The US as a whole is 78.6, so Scotland's life expectancy is only a half-year or so below the US Average.

    It should be noted those 17 are a) Southern states utterly dominated by the Conservative movement, b) the bit of the Rust Belt currently controlled by the GOP, or c) the District of Columbia. You can find a lot of narratives from the data to link these states, but the common denominator seems to be a) currently governed by people skeptical of government spending on health care, and b) large minority populations.

    BTW, the list of top US States by life expectancy also supports their thesis. The top 6 are dominated by Democrats, with 6 Democratic Governors and 11 of 12 State Legislative Chambers being Democratic. Number 7 (North Dakota) is reliably Republican at the state level, but also likes to send Democrats, some quite left-wing on economic issues like universal health care, to the US Congress. You don't get a strong consensus that government should stay out of health care until you hit numbers 8 and 10.

    The list of bottom ones supports their theory even better then I've implied. The bottom 12 or 13 states are Southern states, Oklahoma, and Appalachia. They don't have anything near universal health care in those states partly because they're poor, but mostly because the voters there refuse to vote for anyone who wants to spend tax money on anything. DC is smack-dab in the middle of that pack of mediocrity, but a) it's not technically a state, and b) it isn't really self-governing. Congress meddles in DC's internal affairs quite frequently, and except for a brief period (2009-2011) Congress has been remarkably hostile to universal healthcare.

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:25AM (#42557857)

    US has about 35% more debt per person then Greece.

    Right, and about 100% more GDP per person than Greece. (Also about 100% more income per person.) We can sustain more debt because we have a much bigger economy.

    That's not to say that there's nothing wrong with the current level of debt or defecit. It's not just unprecedented by any reasonable measure.

  • by MisterSquid ( 231834 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:53AM (#42558195)

    Right to work does not mean you can be fired for no reason. Right to work means unionization cannot be a condition of employment.

    In California, "At will" designates employment relationships where an employee may be fired for no reason and an employee may quit for no reason. In any case, firings and abandonment don't appear to be common.

  • by Eunuchswear ( 210685 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:55AM (#42558227) Journal

    Also keep in mind the US had an interesting thing about 70ish years ago. They had WW2. In Europe people hid from the guns and tried not to fight the germans as they were pretty much taken over by 'blitzkrieg'. In the US however we sifted thru all of our able bodied men and sent them off to fight leaving behind a less healthy group

    Fucking clown.

    Military casualties in WW2.

    USSR: 8,800,000-10,700,000 out of 168,524,000 population.
    USA: 416,800 out of 131,028,000
    UK: 383,800 out of 47,760,000
    France: 217,600 out of 41,700,000

    The US had the lowest military casualty rate of any of the non-axis powers.

    "In Europe people hid from the guns".

    You are beneath contempt.

  • Re:Probably? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:02PM (#42558339) Homepage
    I didn't say anything about crimes. But if you insist: The person most likely to kill you is yourself, followed by your mother, your stepfather, your biological father, your significant other, your siblings and your children. If you have weapons in your home, those weapons are easily available to the persons most likely to kill you. For some irrational reasons, people fear the weapons in the hands of strangers much more (and try to defend against them) than the weapons in the hands of people most likely to kill you.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Specter ( 11099 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:04PM (#42558369) Journal

    This report is crap. For those of you who haven't read it, let me save you some time and summarize it for you:

    "Health outcomes in the US are getting better and Americans are living longer. However, we're not getting healthier or living longer-er than other similar developed countries. Therefore: DOOM!

    Although our own data, in fact even our own summary, indicates that for people under 50 the majority of this disparity can be explained by transportation related deaths and violence, we prefer to emote and thus offer the following list of things we don't like as the actual reasons for not getting better fast enough:

    - fat people
    - guns
    - lack universal public health care, and
    - not enough condoms

    Since they raise uncomfortable questions about the ideological conclusions which we've emoted, we've left unexplored and thus unexplained such interesting questions as:
    - Why do these outcomes suddenly reverse after age 75?
    - Why do we assert that socio-economics do not have an impact on this trend then go on to demonstrate vast disparities within US regions that show significant differences in socio-economic status?
    - When you can walk into any corner convenience store anywhere in the US and buy a condom for about the same cost as a bottle of soda, why are we fixated on a lack of access to birth control?

    In summary: DOOM. Also, be more like Europe (we love you! call us!). Finally, spend a LOT more money on public health care (full disclosure: that means us).

  • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:29PM (#42558685)


    European stats are compiled by Eurostat.


    Well, you could always just do the research and find out that different European countries really do report infant mortality statistics differently.
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db23.htm [cdc.gov]

    Honestly, to think they would use different definitions for each country. Why, you must be american.

    I disagree. I think that properly researching and formulating more accurate opinions based on that research can be done by anyone, not just Americans.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:41PM (#42558865) Homepage Journal

    the soldiers were selected from the fittest of the population.

    While that's strictly true, almost every man that wasn't disabled was in some branch of the service then; all six of my uncles were, my dad was a couple of years too young. During WWII there was such a shortage of non-handicapped men in the US that major league baseball had one-armed players on their teams.

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:54PM (#42559035) Homepage

    The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents.

    Homicide, they noted, is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24. The large majority of those homicides involve firearms.

    OK, let's do the math. Let's assume that other countries have zero violent deaths per 100,000 and have a life expectancy of 80 years. Let's assume that all 6 per 100,000 deaths in the US happen at age 15. How much does that affect our life expectancy?

    99994 * 80 = 7999520
    6 * 15 = 90
    90 + 7999520 = 7999610
    7999610 / 100,000 = 79.9961
    80 - 79.9961 = 0.0039

    The life expectancy difference between the US and the top performer is 4 years for men and 5 years for women. The maximum possible effect of gun violence according to the statistics in this report is 0.0039 of those years.

    The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns

    True enough, but it was because of their preconceived notions, not because the data in the study supports their view.

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:58PM (#42559719) Homepage

    The minimum an employer can offer in the UK would be 20 days vacation plus eight public holidays. That's almost six weeks. Most large employers that I have encountered will offer five weeks plus eight days public holidays, so almost three weeks extra per year. My last employer offered six weeks plus 9 days.

    Large employers tend to also have generous sick leave. My previous employer paid full salary for six months then half salary for the following six months. Again, I don't think that would be unusual from a large employer. Perhaps shorter for the first couple of years of employment.

    The standard working week is 35 hours, as opposed to the 40 hours that appears to be standard in the US.

    All in all, I'd say it's pretty different.

  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <whitroth&5-cent,us> on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:59PM (#42559731) Homepage

    I just skimmed a bunch of posts, and I'm wondering if more than 0.1% of you actually read any of the articles about it.

    Let's see: it noted lack of access to medical care in mostly the below-median-income (i.e, half the country), due to cost.

    But let's not create, say, a national medical system, like the UK's NHS, where they're all on salary, and so have no incentive to push all the newest, most expensive of everything, including what the drug co salesman left them samples of. No, we'd rather spend 25% to 75% or more of our medical dollars for multinational profits, as opposed to healthcare.

    Oh, that's right, there was also an article I read yesterday, about a study showing that for-profit hospitals gave, overwhelmingly, worse care than non-profit, due to cost-cutting measures like fewer staff, and less one-on-one staff/patient care.


  • by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:38PM (#42560157)

    You've made a fundamental error in your calculations. They said the US has a violent death rate of 6/100k. Your calculations assume that 6/100k deaths, or in other words 0.006% of deaths are violent. That is incorrect. What you need to do is divide the violent death rate of 6/100k, by the overall US death rate of 793.8 per 100k - leading to a proportion of total deaths of 0.756%.

    Now, to apply the correct calculations, if in a population of people living to 80, 0.765% of them die at 15 instead:

    (6/793.8 ) * 15 + ((793.8-6)/793.8 ) * 80 = 79.5.

    So about 0.5 years from homicide. Gun related suicide is more often, and takes off another year or so.

    Obviously, this doesn't explain the entire difference, but it can have a significant effect.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @06:43PM (#42562849)

    Indeed. People seem to be accepting that health care is for a privileged few.

    We have an American expat at work here in Australia. When he rolled his car on the highway he went home to deal with his own wounds. The neighbour called the ambulance when she saw him and despite some protests about not being able to afford healthcare he was shipped off to hospital. Quick overnight stay, xray, and a neck brace + follow up doctors visit later and he was amazed that it didn't cost him a cent.

    And he's not even a citizen here.

  • by jgdobak ( 119142 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:05PM (#42564423)

    The higher pay and less taxes mean nothing because even simple medical procedures or healthcare can bankrupt us.

    I had a meniscus repair in my knee last year. My health insurance sent me a nice itemized letter saying that, were I not insured, I'd have had to pay another $43K out of pocket for my surgery. I walked into the hospital at 5:30 AM and left at 11:00 AM the same day.

    A few years back I had to get a root canal and crown for a tooth I broke. Out of pocket cost for the procedure, with insurance, was a hair over a thousand dollars.

    The median household income in this country is $48K. Most Americans simply cannot afford what healthcare costs here, with or without insurance.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!