The Economist (official group for The Economist newspaper)

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James

Americans do not live as long as many other nations. What might be the reasons?

Manager Top Contributor

Live long and prosper was Mr Spock's salute, but the interesting thing about Americans is that, prosperous as they may be, they do not live as long as many other nations. British females had a lower life expectancy than Americans in 1980; now they can expect to live 1.6 years longer. British males have gone from being roughly level to being more than two years ahead http://econ.st/13vcame

  • Comment (13)
  • January 14, 2013
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  • Al J.

    Al

    Al J.

    Business Growth Veteran

    More medical care might be one surprising reason. The American Medical Association grudgingly admitted medical error kills at least 150,000+ each year while 1 in 3 admitted to a hospital either catches a new disease or is further injured through drug interactions, inaccurate care, etc..

    Diet, obesity, and lack of routine physical activity like walking, climbing stairs, carrying parcels, etc. are clearly a factor and perhaps the greatest divergence. With much of the middle-aged and senior population pre-diabetic or diabetic/insulin resistant/metabolic syndrome and suffering chronic inflammation, that accelerates death considerably.

    Americans take a lot of physical risks, particularly from birth to age 25, particularly while driving and the death rates are quite high in that range, a male doesn't reach the same level of death risk again until his 60's. The unusually wide ownership of vehicles and miles driven must play a significant factor as vehicle death rates have been 20-55,000/yr for decades (down from what they were with safer vehicles and road designs.)

    While being extremely appearance conscious, actual health and nutrition knowledge (as opposed to media-misreported fads, studies, diets, etc.) is surprisingly sketchy with much of the canon most broadly taught long disproved by better research. An overreliance on prescription drugs, corrective surgery at the last moment, cosmetic surgery, joint replacements, heart stints, etc. in the search for the quick fix and last-minute save make it murkier yet. Given the high amount of profit in providing quick fixes (and often quite sincere people doing it) and the minimal profit in providing slow fixes, it's unlikely to change.

    The pollutants and environmental contaminants argument usually relies on knowing almost nothing about other countries' issues with those and mistaking 19th century coal fumes in dense urban areas with inversions like London as the standard for air pollution from all types and sources.

    Of course water quality, cleaning it up coming and going, has the most profound impact on lifespan, adding perhaps 20 years pretty reliably where modern systems replace readily contaminated old approaches and water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, etc. used to be among the biggest killers.

  • Michael W.

    Michael

    Michael W.

    IT Director at AsiaInspection

    I am an American that has been living in Europe for the last twenty years. I manage to get back to the states about once a year, and each trip leaves me increasingly amazed at the obesity problem. I seriously wonder how so many people can allow themselves to get so big and not do anything about it.

    I grew up in Colorado, which is pretty much year after year the 'fittest' state in the union, and often the only one with an obesity rate below 20%. So yes, as I walk down the street every fifth person I cross is not just overweight but obese.

    I would attribute the problem to two things. 1) Nutrition. 2) Automobiles. American food culture has turned into an endless chain of shopping mall food courts serving super-sized portions of assembled food, providing it's buyers with 3 days worth of sodium & fat in a single meal. The only people benefiting from that type of meal are the people selling it. What America needs is a slow-food revolution.

    The second problem is the American's obsession with the automobile. Nobody walks. It is incredible. Even the quick trip to the store for a carton of milk becomes a road trip. A good walk to the store would not only help America get fit, it would reduce their dependency on foreign oil. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • Dharmender P.

    Dharmender

    Dharmender P.

    General Manager (Project Management) at FLSmidth Private Limited

    My doctor advised me a laundry list of medicines to reduce weight...I dumped it...I increased my intake of fruits, shoots and vegetables..I do brisk walking for 45 minutes everyday...I shed eight kilos within 6 months...Pizza...once in year..no sympathy for Peezahoot, doominoos et al...very unfortunate to see fat kids, fat moms and fat fathers in any restaurants. Nature designed us to live like hunter gatherers....what have we become!!

  • Sirajul I.

    Sirajul

    Sirajul I.

    Senior Consutant at Independent

    Well, most commentators point towards food habit of the Americans as the #1 reason for ill-health, and secondly, lack of physical activity. That must be the real reasons, apart from treatment options. There definitely are many treatment options available for many diseases apart from the preventive ones. There are simple real cures that successfully treat many diseases in existence but many doctors and hospitals maybe ignoring those for reasons of scientific evidence or whatever...

  • Georges P.

    Georges

    Georges P.

    at Gearbox Business Consultancy

    Fast Food?

  • Dharmender P.

    Dharmender

    Dharmender P.

    General Manager (Project Management) at FLSmidth Private Limited

    Agreed with SI.

    In the name of evidence we neglect several time tested remedies for prevention/treatment of several ailments.

    Last I read was that doctors are the third leading cause of death (Wrong diagnosis, wrong surgeries, hospital acquired infections et al). One should eat seasonal vegetables/fruits to lead a healthy life. Cut the Junk...tax them heavily with "National Junk Food Tax" and "National Junk Food related Garbage Tax" Junk food also generates a lot of garbage!!

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