Regardless of race, class, education level, and even healthy eating and exercise habits, Americans have a shorter life expectancy than their peers in other affluent nations. According to a new government-sponsored survey released Wednesday, part of the gap in life expectancy can be attributed to the fact that people living in the U.S. are much more likely to die from traffic accidents and homicides than the people in other well-off countries like Japan, Australia, Canada, and Germany.
That health gap has worsened over the past three decades, even as medical advances have improved modern health services. And Americans are falling behind in several categories, whether or not they’re afforded privileges that would suggest they might be healthier than their less advantaged peers:
The study listed nine health areas in which Americans came in below average: infant mortality and low birth weight, injuries and homicides, adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, HIV and AIDS, drug-related deaths, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease and disability. [...]
“Even Americans who are white, insured, have college educations and seem to have healthy behaviors are in worse health than similar people in other nations,” said [Dr. Steven H. Woolf], a researcher who directs the Center for Human Needs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
The disparities were pervasive across all age groups up to 75, Woolf told the reporters, and seemed to stem from a variety of wide-ranging causes, including U.S. car culture, the number of uninsured people in the country, and weaknesses in our outpatient healthcare system.
“The pervasiveness of the problem was really staggering,” Woolf told Bloomberg News. “I don’t think American parents know their children will live a shorter life with greater disease rates than other countries.”
The United States spends more money on its health care system than any other developed nation, but other studies have confirmed that simply spending more money doesn’t guarantee better care. And many Americans may not even be able to access that care in the first place. Although Obamacare intends to extend health coverage to 30 million previously uninsured Americans by 2014, some Americans still struggle to be able to afford the care they need, particularly since the economic downturn during the Great Recession forced all Americans to cut back on medical services.