The health of older Britons is generally better than that of Americans of similar age, but health insurance–or the lack of it–does not appear to explain the difference, a new study finds.
Moreover, health differences could not be attributed to differences among the two groups in smoking, obesity, consuming too much alcohol or any of the other “usual suspects,” according to authors of the study published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study of about 8,100 Americans and British aged 55 to 64 was conducted by researchers from University College London, the College of London and the Rand Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.
The principal author, James Banks of University College London, concludes, “Americans are much sicker than the English.”
This was despite average per-capita spending on medical care of $5,274 in the U.S., compared to $2,164 in England, the article noted, citing World Health Organization data.
The U.S. population in late middle age was less healthy than British counterparts for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease and cancer, Banks and colleagues found.
Within each country, poor health was worst among those at the bottom of the education or income ladder. Behavioral risk factors, including smoking and obesity, explained little of these health differences, according to the article.
Among those aged 55 to 64, diabetes prevalence is twice as high in the U.S., but the researchers could explain only about 20% of this difference by common behavioral risk factors.