U.S. riches and poor health

A major study titled “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” was released Jan. 9 by National Academies Press. The 378-page report, prepared by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, compares the population of the United States by age and death/illness rates to the people in 16 other “high-income” nations. The shocking conclusions, noted by major media across the country, put the U.S. at the bottom or next to the bottom in most categories.

Overall the researchers found: “The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive — it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors and injuries.” The report summary details that “the United States fares worse in nine health domains.” These include “the highest infant mortality rate” and the fact that “children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries.”

Injuries from automobile accidents, along with other accidental injuries, as well as violence, “occur at higher rates in the United States … and are a leading cause of death in children, adolescents and young adults.” Adolescent pregnancies and rates of sexually transmitted diseases are also the highest in the U.S.

The United States has the highest level of HIV infection and AIDS. Decreased life expectancy from drugs and alcohol are greatest in the U.S. The obesity rate is highest for people in the U.S., and for those 20 years and older, diabetes is also highest.

“The U.S. death rate from ischemic heart disease is the second highest,” while “lung disease is more prevalent” than in Britain, other European countries and Japan.

The study particularly pointed out, “Americans who do reach age 50 generally arrive at this age in poorer health than their counterparts in other high-income countries.” It also is noted, “The U.S. health disadvantage is more pronounced among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, but even advantaged Americans appear to fare worse. … Upper-income groups appear to be in worse health than similar groups in comparison countries.” The report noted, “The nation’s large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans.”

The negative report card on U.S. health is especially startling considering “the country’s enormous level of per-capita spending on health care, which far exceeds that of any other country.”

Why the U.S. is so unhealthy

Summarizing possible reasons for these findings, the report points to “a large uninsured population” who “are more likely to find care inaccessible or unaffordable.” The “highly fragmented” health system with “limited public health and primary care” is also a factor. The high poverty rate and income inequality greater than that in most high-income countries, combined with poor diets, abuse of prescription and illegal drugs, and widespread access to firearms are all contributing factors. The U.S. population has “less access to the kinds of ‘safety-net’ programs … in other countries,” and U.S. children “are more likely … to grow up in poverty.”

Given that this is a government report, it isn’t surprising that it never mentions the ruthless nature of U.S. capitalism as the fundamental factor that lies at the heart of this shocking exposure. Subject to constant propaganda that the United States is the “greatest country in the world,” the facts in this report can only add to the growing disconnect between what people experience and what they have been taught to believe.

The prepublication, uncorrected proofs of the report can be read in full at tinyurl.com/anhdckk.