Americans’ sedentary and weight-accumulating lifestyles seem to be finally affecting the nation’s overall health, according to a new study released Thursday that ranked the United States last among wealthy nations.
The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine found in their report, “Although the United States is an affluent nation with high aggregate wealth, it also has pronounced income inequality and high rates of relative poverty,” which has contributed to an epidemic of unhealthiness compared with other developed, wealthy countries.
The study states that U.S. citizens are sicker and dying younger than residents of other nations. Life expectancy is also increasing at a slower rate than in other nations.
At age 50, life expectancy is lower in the United States than in the other 16 high-income countries that were analyzed.
“For decades, the United States has also had the highest obesity rates. The nation has the highest prevalence of diabetes among adults aged 20 years and older and the second highest death rate from ischemic heart disease,” reads an abstract of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The other 16 countries analyzed were Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
“Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health. What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind,” stated Steven H. Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, who helped commission the study.
The study said that life expectancy is not the only driving factor, as the United States ranks either at or near the bottom in terms of the frequency and mortality of injuries, diseases, and “risk factors.”
These risk factors include teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, a prevalence of AIDS and HIV, drug-related deaths, low birth weight, homicides, infant mortality, and disability, as well as a slew of health problems related to obesity, heart disease, and lung disease.
Americans endure the highest infant mortality rate of any wealthy nation, while ranking poorly on the proportion of children who live to age 5.
“It’s a tragedy. Our report found that an equally large, if not larger, disadvantage exists among younger Americans,” Woolf said in the abstract. “I don’t think most parents know that, on average, infants, children, and adolescents in the U.S. die younger and have greater rates of illness and injury than youth in other countries.”
On the other hand, the United States ranked higher in some areas of health and related behavior, with Americans over the age of 75 living longer than their peers in other high-income nations. They also have better control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as lower rates of cigarette smoking, the study found.
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