Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

American Exceptionalism

All this is old, old news to readers of this blog, but we might as well keep chopping away. The National Academies of Science commissioned yet another panel on the health of the U.S. population compared to civilized countries, and they reach the same depressing conclusion: we're not the Greatest Country on Earth; God doesn't bless America; we aren't a Shining City on the Hill; we aren't Number One. We are the uttermost piece of crap. E.g.

  • For many years, Americans have had a shorter life expectancy than people in almost all of the peer countries. For example, as of 2007, U.S. males lived 3.7 fewer years than Swiss males and U.S. females lived 5.2 fewer years than Japanese females.
  • For the past three decades, this difference in life expectancy has been growing, especially among women.
  • The 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 wise people don't know exactly why, or they kind of do but they're coy about it. We have much more gun violence, we die more in car crashes mostly because we drive more, we have more people who are depressed and addicted and oh yeah -- lots of people don't have access to health care and the health care they do get isn't as good even though it costs 2 or 3 times as much.

    A funny thing happens when we turn 65 though -- the life expectancy gap stars to shrink and it goes away by age 75. What else happens at age 65? Oh yeah -- you get, for the first time, universal, comprehensive, single payer national health care.

    By the way -- it's also a lot cheaper. Even though it's better.


robin andrea said...

It's true. We are the uttermost piece of crap of a country. A crazy bunch of lunatics have captured a minority of the vote but the majority of seats in the House, and are loathe to make our lives any easier.

Just had a friend of my older brother (aged 64) drop dead last Saturday. Hadn't seen him in years, but heard that he had been having some health issues, but no insurance. Just another statistic.

Anonymous said...

A bit OT - I’m always puzzled about and a bit surprised at the importance accorded to life expectancy (average life-span..) in the OECD today, while understanding that comparisons with the past / other countries can be indicative.

But when they are used as a direct proxy - or valid measure, meaningful indice, etc. - for the efficiency of health care it goes too far. (No criticism of C’s post, his point is clear.) We should stop doing this, it is misleading, and may even orient health care in poor directions.

Surely what matters is that ppl live ‘healthy’, happy, productive lives overall, without too much suffering, physical or mental. Achieving this is only partly dependent on ‘med’ care. Whether the overall life span is 65 or 74 or 83 is not relevant.

Differences of course count - unemployed male workers in GB have short lives (45, 50?) while upper class ladies are still sipping gin and ordering bespoke shoes at 89. Yeah.

Put another way, life expectancy is affected by multiple factors of which ‘health’ care is but a minor one. Pretending otherwise accords too much importance to the Docs. (Big Pharma, Med industry, etc.)

For the US, for ex; a violent culture begets violence and many early deaths, as well as anxiety, insecurity, stress (more meds, more health problems, more deaths..)

Big Agri and Corps, severe underemployment, oil slaves (cars, tractors, robots, etc.) > bad nutrition, bad health. On the other hand, mobility, individualism, the possibility of advancement (even if only imagined), being in an affluent country with abundant food, saves lives...

One of my favorites is that ppl who live on/near coasts live longer, independently of other ‘obvious’ factors (incl. being at sea level itself). (No links, sorry, that just popped into my head, I’d have to look it up.)