Americans are living longer than ever, but we’re doing it in poor health. Dependent on a fist-full of prescription drugs and eating foods from cans, boxes, and paper fast-food bags, our collective health isn’t measuring up to many other countries around the world. Despite spending more on health care than any other country in the world, we just can’t seem to get healthy.
According to a new global project, called the Global Burden of Disease Study, the U.S. has seen a shift over the last 20 years, from illnesses and disease that cut life short to those chronic conditions that lead to long-term care. In other words, we may be living longer, but the quality of our health has suffered.
The study is a collaboration of 488 researchers in 50 countries. It looks at health on a country-by-country basis, analyzing deaths and disability caused by 291 diseases and injuries across the globe.
The U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to violence, heart disease, traffic accidents, and diabetes. The study says the biggest causes of early death are heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, road injuries, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The biggest causes of disability in the U.S. include depression, low back pain, and musculoskeletal disorders. Remarkably, depression, anxiety and other mental disorders account for about 25% of all disability in the U.S.
“We have been gradually improving over the last 20 years, but other countries have progressed even more rapidly, and our relative standing compared to other wealthy countries has actually declined,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine.
Diet, not surprisingly, is fingered as the main cause of our collective poor health. Lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity are also leading contributors to early death in the U.S. In other words, these are lifestyle choices, completely within our control. (Though a recent report says Americans are exercising more than before…while obesity rates continue to climb).
“We spend, on average, twice as much as the rest of the countries. Approximately 30 percent of all health expenditures in the United States, which would amount to $750 billion a year, don’t actually contribute to better health. We have a big job ahead of us to create a health care system that really adds value and doesn’t just cost and waste a lot of money.”
And this report of course is not the only one indicating America’s lack of quality progress in the health arena. Based on findings presented in a report titled U.S. Health in International Perspectives: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, Americans have a higher chance of dying from all causes than people living in 16 other developed nations.
Further, the United States ranked 2nd to last when focusing just on deaths from noncommunicable disease, which includes ailments like diabetes mellitus, endocrine disorders, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and digestive diseases, to name a few.