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America the unhealthy

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America trails 12 other nations in making gains in life expectancy, despite spending more than twice the amount of the other nations on health care. Another surprise is obesity, smoking, traffic fatalities and homicide are not to blame, according to a Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health study.

The study researched health spending; behavioral risk factors, such as obesity and smoking; and 15-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the U.S., Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Over the last 30 years, 15-year survival rates for Americans ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. have fallen relative to the 12 countries. Forty-five-year-old white American women fared the worst; as of 2005, their 15-year survival rates were lower than that of all the other countries.

Furthermore, survival rates of this group of women in 2005 had not surpassed the 1975 15-year survival rates for Swiss, Swedish, Dutch or Japanese women. The ranking for 15-year life expectancy for American 45-year-old men also dropped from 3rd in 1975 to 12th just five years ago.

Despite the U.S. having faster declines in smoking between 1975 and 2005, researchers found little difference in smoking habits between the 13 countries.

Additionally, researchers also found Americans are just as likely to be obese as in 1975, when the U.S. was not so far behind in life expectancy.

Last, homicide and traffic fatalities were found to have accounted for a steady share of U.S. deaths over time and would not account for the significant change in 15-year life expectancy.

The researchers say the study suggests the U.S. has not been able to improve survival rates, even with its greater spending on health care. They pointed out flaws in the overall health care, such as unregulated fee-for-service payments and reliance on specialty care, which is more expensive, but does not show proportionate increases in life expectancy.

Source: Senior Journal