Why Americans Die Younger Than International Peers

A new study by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine has found that Americans tend to have poorer health and live shorter lives than their international peers.

The report, “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” was released on Wednesday.

The panel assigned by the NRC was given 18 months to review recent health studies from 16 peer countries. Those countries include Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

According to the study, 27 other countries had higher life expectancies than the United States. Panel Chair Steven Woolf writes in the preface:

“Our panel was unprepared for the gravity of the finding we uncovered. We hope that others will take notice.”

The report later states:

“The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries, but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”

There are many factors cited in the report including the United States health care system:

“The U.S. health system is highly fragmented, with limited public health and primary care resources and a large uninsured population. Compared with people in other countries, Americans are more likely to find care inaccessible or unaffordable.”

The health care system is not entirely to blame however. The report also states that even insured, white, college educated Americans are less healthy than their European peers.

There are three other causes that could be to blame. First, although Americans know what is “good” for them, they still consume more calories and have higher rates of drug abuse then their peers.

Americans benefit less from from social programs than peers in other countries.

And finally American society’s dependence on technology and the automobile breeds less physically active civilians.

While there is no quick fix the report says that Americans would benefit greatly from better health habits overall, and the hope is that now a broader discussion about health, not limited to health care, can be opened as a nation.

What do you think: Are American citizens knowingly decreasing their life expectancy with poor health decisions?