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Fri, Feb

Yanks less healthy than Brits but live just as long if not longer

Typography
They are known as two peoples separated by a common language. They are also separated by much different health care systems. The English can boast that their elderly have a lower rate of chronic disease than their American counterparts, according to a new study. However, sick elderly Americans still have a lower death rate than sick elderly British.

They are known as two peoples separated by a common language. They are also separated by much different health care systems. The English can boast that their elderly have a lower rate of chronic disease than their American counterparts, according to a new study. However, sick elderly Americans still have a lower death rate than sick elderly British.

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The paper, published in the journal Demography, was written by James Banks and Alastair Muriel, researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London, and James P. Smith, distinguished chair in labor markets and demographic studies at RAND.

The study has a significant cultural and political element to it. For example, is there a cultural reason why Americans develop health conditions at a higher rate? Perhaps it is the food we eat or the way we live our lives – drinking, smoking, taking risks, etc. And why are the British people so much healthier at an old age? A universal health care system may explain that.

For some reason, however, Americans with chronic diseases still live longer than those in the UK. "If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States," Smith said. "It appears that at least in terms of survival at older ages with chronic disease, the medical system in the United States may be better than the system in England."

The researchers looked at illnesses such as diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease, and cancer. They found a higher prevalence for all among elderly Americans as compared to the Brits. In fact, the rate of diabetes was almost twice as high in the US, and cancer was more than twice as high in the US for people over 70 (17.9% compared to 7.8%).

They found two explanations for why the death rates do not correspond to the rates in illnesses. One is that the illnesses observed in Britain resulted in higher mortality than in the US. Two is that Americans are diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease than the British.

"Both of these explanations imply that there is higher-quality medical care in the United States than in England, at least in the sense that these chronic illnesses are less likely to cause death among people living in the United States," Smith said. He says the problem as to why Americans develop more chronic conditions have more to do with lifestyle choices and behaviors rather than health care insurance problems.

Link to published article in Demography: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/demography/summary/v047/47.S.banks.html