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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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  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:57AM (#42556859)

    The rest of you would be working yourself to death too if you were making $7.25/hr., had no job security or benefits, couldn't afford a hospital stay, and were afraid you would get laid off if you took a vacation. No 3-hour lunches or month-long vacations here. We WORK for a living! Even the relatively affluent can get fired or laid off at the drop of a hat in the USA.

    But don't worry. You'll learn what it's like soon enough. Greece has already started. No more free rides, fellow Athenians!

  • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:00AM (#42556889)

    They specifically criticise American attitudes to firearms, and not the weapons themselves:

    "widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home"

    At the risk of sounding patronising, they're saying that if you didn't insist on handing out guns like free toasters and storing them like same, you could probably be trusted with them.

  • by fullback ( 968784 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:01AM (#42556899)

    #1 The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the largest total prison population on earth.

    #2 The United States has the highest percentage of obese people in the world.

    #3 The United States has the highest divorce rate on the globe by a wide margin.

    #4 The United States is tied with the U.K. for the most hours of television watched per person each week.

    #5 The United States has the highest rate of illegal drug use on the entire planet.

    #6 There are more car thefts in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world by far.

    #7 There are more reported rapes in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.

    #8 There are more reported murders in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.

    #9 There are more total crimes in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.

    #10 The United States also has more police officers than anywhere else in the world.

    #11 The United States spends much more on health care as a percentage of GDP than any other nation on the face of the earth.

    #12 The United States has more people on pharmaceutical drugs than any other country on the planet.

    #13 The percentage of women taking antidepressants in America is higher than in any other country in the world.

    #14 Americans have more student loan debt than anyone else in the world.

    #15 More pornography is created in the United States than anywhere else on the entire globe. Eighty nine percent is made in the U.S.A. and only 11 percent is made in the rest of the world.

    #16 The United States has the largest trade deficit in the world every single year. Between December 2000 and December 2010, the United States ran a total trade deficit of 6.1 trillion dollars with the rest of the world, and the U.S. has had a negative trade balance every single year since 1976.

    #17 The United States spends 7 times more on the military than any other nation on the planet does. In fact, U.S. military spending is greater than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined.

    #18 The United States has far more foreign military bases than any other country does.

    #19 The United States has the most complicated tax system in the entire world.

    #20 The U.S. has accumulated the biggest national debt that the world has ever seen and it is rapidly getting worse. Right now, U.S. government debt is expanding at a rate of $40,000 per second.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon.gamerslastwill@com> on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:03AM (#42556917) Homepage Journal

    potentially, but this country's owners are just plain happy giving people the freedom to make life shortening choices.

  • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by semi-extrinsic ( 1997002 ) <asmunder@@@stud...ntnu...no> on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:12AM (#42557009)
    I agree, the rules for storage is where the US should introduce new legislation ASAP. Make it mandatory to keep your guns locked away, unloaded, and set up a program where for one year the government covers half the cost for anyone buying a gun locker (reasonably priced and conforming to some specification). I'd bet that the total benefit of such a program to society would be larger than the costs in a year or two.

    To provide some statistics: this paper [nih.gov] found that in the 12 US states with laws regarding safe storage of guns at that time, there were 23% fewer unintentional shooting deaths among children under 15, and this finding was statistically significant.
  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:14AM (#42557019) Journal

    Knowing several people in various states in the US, ranging from middle-aged to old... I'm anything but convinced. It seems to me that compared to Norwegians (and most likely to everyone in Northern Europe) you work harder for longer for less pay, and have less to show for it at the end of your life. I don't think that most people enjoys working 60-80 hours a week, knowing that they can't afford to retire... meaning they will work until they drop dead.

    To quote a comment that arose over a Christmas dinner a few years ago; "What do you call retired people in the states?" "Greeters at WalMart."

    The plural of "stuff I know" isn't data, but in this case it seems like the data is backing up the stuff I know. You don't "pack more into your years" - you're worn out faster by an system built to benefit the rich, and even the rich seems overall less happy than most people I see over on my end.

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:17AM (#42557059)
    This country's owners are the citizens. Yes, they are happy to have the freedom to make life shortening choices.
  • some quotes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:18AM (#42557065)
    From the article:

    The shorter life expectancy for Americans largely was attributed to high mortality for men under age 50, from car crashes, accidents and violence.

    "Our health as Americans is only partly aided by having a very good health-care system," he said. "Much of our health disadvantage comes from factors outside of the clinical system and outside of what doctors and hospitals can do."

    The authors noted that Americans who lived past age 75 had higher survival rates compared with similar countries, and Americans overall had better rates of surviving cancer and strokes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:24AM (#42557125)

    Uh I know many whites who are in that very situation. Also he said that too "Even the relatively affluent can get fired or laid off at the drop of a hat in the USA."

    You can go from earning 200k a year to living on welfare in under 2 years. I have seen many it has happened to.

    Also is it systemic throughout the whole US or just regions (such as say new york which has a high population which messes with the results?). Compairing say the whole US to say Norway is not exactly a apples apples comparison...

    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. Switzerland was nearly bending over backwards to not get into it. Where does say the U.K. fit in that list?

    Or is this just a 'your healthcare/guns' suck article that is all the rage these days?

    You seem to be suggesting that there was a kind of perverse form of natural selection whereby the strong/fit were taken out of the gene pool due to an overseas war... Don't forget that the ones who DID survive came back and "boomed" out a ton of kids. The fit AND life-preserving among the gene pool made out quite nicely while the risk-prone were weeded out...

  • It IS the inequality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:38AM (#42557271) Journal

    There's plenty of research, showing that high income inequality will lead to lower life expectancy, and not just among the poor.

    The more economically unequal a society becomes, everybody gets more sick, even the 1%.

    And it's not just physical health. There is more mental illness the more inequality grows. You know, craziness, like the kind that would make a 20 year-old kid kill his mom and 20 six and seven year-olds.

    There are so many measurements of the health of a society that degrade as income inequality grow, it's not surprising that a growing number of very wealthy people are in favor of having their own tax rates go up and the social safety net made stronger. Some are even starting to take better care of their employees at the cost of stock price (the "market" hates it when workers get paid more). Costco is an example of this. Wages go up and employees get better health care and other benefits and the financial elite say, "What a chump. What's wrong with that guy, anyway, is he some kind of fucking commie?" (If you think I'm kidding about this, check out some of the stories about Costco in the Wall Street Journal or on CNBC. The CEO's name is James Sinegal, and he's decided to earn less than $500k. Wall Street hates the dude because they're afraid he's going to start some kind of trend where bonuses go down and then they won't be able to afford that new infinity pool in their houses in St Lucia.)

  • Re:Switzerland (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:44AM (#42557369)
    All of those military rifles in Swiss homes are there because they were earned, not bought. Just about all males go through military service, and on honorable discharge from their conscription they're essentially listed as being in the reserves and they retain their rifles.

    If you've been through the military and honorably discharged and want to own a sidearm like the one that you carried in the service, I'm a lot less worried about you than I am about any other random person. Granted, too many former US military have PTSD issues that our health system isn't addressing like it should, but even with that, we haven't seen massive numbers of mass-shootings conducted by former military personnel that were honorably discharged. In fact, there has been only one such mass-shooting in 30 years, and it was an Airman that was forcibly-honorably-discharged, who didn't want to be, who returned with weapons to shoot the military doctors that he blamed for his discharge.
  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:45AM (#42557377)

    A proper analysis would be putting in perspective, not just giving you the numbers. They say smoking takes an average of 6 minutes off your life for each cigarette you smoke. If that's the case, living in the United States is as bad as being a pack a day smoker for 12 years. Now rather than an abstract number, people have something they can relate to: Living here is worse than smoking for your health.

  • Re:inequality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:08AM (#42557613)

    Mind explaining how "teen pregnancy" has fuck-all to do with health?

    Teenage parents tend to smoke, drink, and use drugs to a greater degree than their peers. Children born while their mothers are teenagers have significantly lower scores on standardized IQ tests, do poorly in school, and have more health problems than children with older mothers.

    But correlation is not causation. If a mother has her first baby while she is a teenager, and has more children later, the later children do just as poorly as the first. So the problem is not that teenagers have children, but that stupid people have children, and having a child while still a teenager happens to be highly correlated with stupidity.

    Keep in mind that 18 and 19 are still part of your teenage years.

    Keep in mind that having a kid when you are 18 or 19 is usually a pretty stupid thing to do.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:08AM (#42557623) Homepage

    No, we should be banning pharma for profit. A lot of the adverse drug reactions are because pharma companies are pushing drugs that have poorly characterized side effects, because they have a profit incentive to discard studies that show bad side effects, and finish studies that do not, and there's no regulatory regime in place to prevent this. Medical checklists would supposedly also make a big difference.

    Having said that, the human species as a whole is capable of addressing more than one problem at once, due to the fact that there is more than one of us. So we can actually address the medical poisoning problem, the other poisoning problem, _and_ the gun problem. We don't have to pick just one.

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:29AM (#42557903) Homepage

    Right now I have about 120hrs sick time and about 240hrs vacation time accrued

    So, after ten years, you have three weeks sick time. If you're in a car accident, get diagnosed with a serious illness or similar then you need to hope you have private insurance?

    You have six weeks vacation time accrued. That would not be an uncommon annual amount with a decent European employer. In the UK, the minimum annual entitlement is four weeks. Eight days of public holidays would be in addittion to that. I notice some US employers require their staff to take vacation on public holidays like Christmas or New Years when they couldn't work even if they wanted to.

  • That's complete bullshit.
    So is the premise that we make the most pornography, per capita.

    "Mother Teresa"
    Mother Teresa was a liar, and a bully.
    She routinely claims she was getting money for the poor when it was for convents, and the Vatican. She was isolated from the public except when under tight media controls.
    SO using her as a reference for anything is crap. You might as well go to tobacco advertisers for an opinion on the dangers of tobacco use.

    A lot of people who are not lonely enjoy pornography.

  • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:35AM (#42557995) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure about that. This paper found that storage didn't make any difference.

    I've never understood how "storage" works. The main argument for having a gun in the home is that the gun owner can protect himself in case of home invasion. That means the gun has to be readily accessible day and night. It has to be readily accessible to your 16-year-old daughter when she's home alone. Or your 16-year-old son.

    It seems that safe storage and protection are mutually exclusive. If the gun is available to protect you and your family, it's available enough to make it easy for you and your family to commit suicide.

    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.long [oxfordjournals.org]
    Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study
    Linda L. Dahlberg, Robin M. Ikeda and Marcie-jo Kresnow
    Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 3.4).
    The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 10.4, 95% confidence interval: 5.8, 18.9). regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

  • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:41AM (#42558047)

    You can go from earning 200k a year to living on welfare in under 2 years. I have seen many it has happened to.

    Also is it systemic throughout the whole US or just regions (such as say new york which has a high population which messes with the results?). Compairing say the whole US to say Norway is not exactly a apples apples comparison...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_in_Europe_by_life_expectancy [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_life_expectancy [wikipedia.org]

    If you look at European life expectancies most of the former Western block states are above 80. All are above 79 except Portugal, Denmark, and Cyprus. None are below 78.1. If you look at US states only 22 are above 79. 8 are above 80. Maryland is tied with Portugal. 17 other states and DC are worse.

    The 8 are dominated by people who support using tax money to pay for universal health insurance, which means that they have much a much larger social safety net then the rest of the country, especially in terms of medical care.

    The bottom is dominated by Southern states where local pols are hostile to the very concept of spending tax money on health care.

  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:53AM (#42558187) Homepage 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'.


    Germany had WW2 too, I seem to remember they played some kind of important role in it. I suppose it was a walk in a park for France as well then. Finland fought against USSR and then against Germans who burnt half the country and then didn't accept marshall aid(and instead paid reparations to USSR).

    and In Finland someone living on 200k/year is called a filthy rich fucker.

    it's not the hard knock life that is killing you - it's the opposite - and your jails. and being rich enough to eat enough.

  • no there isn't (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:09PM (#42558423)

    There's plenty of research, showing that high income inequality will lead to lower life expectancy, and not just among the poor.

    "X leads to Y" is a statement about causation. Income inequality by itself is a population level economic measure; it doesn't "cause" anybody's death by itself. The best you can say is that high levels of inequality in a society are statistically associated with lower life expectancies. That is probably true if you simply forget about all the other variables, but that doesn't tell you anything about any kind of meaningful causal relationship between anything.

    Even if there is some reasonable underlying causal relationship somewhere, it still doesn't mean that reducing inequality will improve life expectancy. For example, you could simply shoot everybody in the top 10% of income earners. That would certainly greatly reduce inequality in the US, but it wouldn't increase life expectancy. Or, less dramatically, we could probably achieve Japanese-level life expectancies if we changed our society to work more like Japanese society; but would you really want that? I've been to Japan many times, and I gladly trade a couple of years of life expectancy not to have to live like that or eat that food.

    Yet another way of looking at it is that increased inequality comes with significant benefits for our society, and a small increase in life expectancy is not worth giving up those benefits for. If you want us to reduce inequality, you need to show that the costs of reducing inequality are more than made up for by the benefits.

    Keep in mind that the differences in life expectancy are tiny. Overall life expectancy in France or Spain is about 81 years, it's about 80 years in the UK, 79.4 years in Germany, and 78.2 years in the US, and a big part of the 1-2 year difference between the US and Europe is due to causes that are understood and not related to economics, inequality, guns, or other favorite political hot potatoes.

  • by Erikderzweite ( 1146485 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:35PM (#42558779)

    Reporting from Germany. Straight after the university (tuition = zero) I got a job with 29 vacation days (28 regular + one extra on Christmas). Sick days? Not sure, I need a doctors notice for anything more than 3 days and my employer is obliged to pay up to 30 days in hospital. Plus, I have medical insurance as does everyone around here.

    Oh, and I am forbidden to work for more than 10 hours a day.

    On the other hand you probably earn more and pay less taxes. Happy spending :-)

  • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MasaMuneCyrus ( 779918 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:08PM (#42559181)

    If I'm going to speculate wildly, I would guess that mandatory military training is probably the biggest contributor to safe gun ownership in Switzerland. Ethnic and cultural homogeneity may play a role too.

    I'm going to speculate that better welfare in Europe helps, too. Most criminals don't exist because they were born evil (though a lot of them do have psychological problems). Most criminals exist because crime offers them a way out of their otherwise crappy life. If someone in a ghetto doesn't have any money, but drugs offer them the possibility of fortune with a little risk, many will choose the risk and fortune over safety and poverty.

    People will choose the path of least resistance. If committing crimes is an easier way to live comfortably, they'll do it. If working at a convenience store is an easier way to live comfortably, they'll do that, instead. Unfortunately, crime presents a better way of life than working at minimum wage in America. I will hypothesize that the best way to eliminate crime would be to set the minimum wage such that 40 hours/week of minimum wage would bring you to at or above the poverty line.

    You see a similar system at work with software and entertainment piracy. There is a balance between the cost and availability of software/entertainment for legal purchase vs. the time, effort, and quality of pirated material. If the games cost too much, are too difficult to acquire, and piracy is easy, people will pirate. Systems like Steam which have numerous sales and allow the freedom to play on any machine have been wildly successful against piracy.

  • U.S. vs. the world (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frontier Owner ( 2616587 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:09PM (#42559195)
    Having been around the world a couple times, I can say, the food here has a couple issues. Mostly, we are served quantity over quality. Taste is replaced with salt, processed fat, and chemical enhancements. The only place that has food comparable to ours is the UK. Other places all the meals are about 1/2 or less of what you get here. You sit down at a table to eat. Soda has sugar, not chemically enhanced corn syrup. When I eat in the US, I get a headache for about 30 minutes after eating. Ive nver had that happen outside the US unless its eating fast food in the airport traveling.
  • by terec ( 2797475 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:22PM (#42559321)

    Nearly a quarter of the workforce in Switzerland is foreign and, as far as the Swiss are concerned, effectively disposable. When unemployment goes up in Switzerland, the Swiss just lay off some foreign workers. Working conditions and pay are considerably worse for foreign workers, at least in my experience (I don't know whether they are supposed to be). And unlike the US, the Swiss are very efficient at keeping track of foreigners in the country (regular registration and "papers please") and presumably at getting rid of them when they are no longer needed. It's no wonder that with such a system, the Swiss themselves mostly end up with the secure, high-paying jobs.

    How do I know? I was working as a guest worker in Switzerland for a few years. Someone even accidentally made me an offer for the same kind of job I was doing, thinking I was a Swiss citizen, which gave me a better idea of the job market for Swiss citizens, and then quickly retracted it when I told them that I was not.

    Despite the differences in pay and conditions, Switzerland is still a nice country to work in for foreigners, and fortunately most Swiss are more modest and polite than you seem to be. But Switzerland doesn't have a magic solution to the problems of economic development, unless you consider using the rest of the world as a cheap and disposable labor pool a magic solution.

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:08PM (#42559829)

    "well there's your problem ..." Treating walmart like an actual grocery store, even if it has a small grocery section .... actually, treating walmart like a store at all is problematic.

    I have a Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs all within 10 min of my house in varying directions. Haven't visited the Ralhps in a while, but the other two certainly conform to the "healthy food around the edges" mentality, for the most part. Fresh veggies, cheese, meats, milk, eggs, bread. Walk down any of the middle isles and you'll get processed microwave dinner things, frozen veggie bags, soda, candy, chips, etc.

    The only deviant, as far as I recall ... baking goods (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc) is a few isles in from the edge... but it's right next to the beer area, so I'm usually in that general vicinity anyway.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by azav ( 469988 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @04:07PM (#42561245) Homepage Journal

    Well, if the health insurance companies exist for the purpose of generating a profit, and the auto insurance companies do and so on and so on, then we do exist to feed them money.

    Look, if monetary exchange happened between holders instantly, wouldn't this "economy" thing all collapse as a giant shell game that is dependent upon one thing for survival, growth?

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"