U.S. population health improving, but trailing other wealthy nations

July 10, 2013

Life expectancies and the overall health of the United States’ population have improved over the past 2 decades. But those improvements have not kept pace with improvements in other wealthy nations, according to an online study in JAMA.

Life expectancies and the overall health of the United States’ population have improved over the past 2 decades. But those improvements have not kept pace with improvements in other wealthy nations, according to an online study in JAMA.

“Despite a level of health expenditures that would have seemed unthinkable a generation ago, the health of the U.S. population has improved only gradually and has fallen behind the pace of progress in many other wealthy nations,” Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD, Institute of Medicine, Washington, D.C., wrote in an editorial that accompanied the study.

“Setting the United States on a healthier course will surely require leadership at all levels of government and across the public and private sectors and actively engaging the health professions and the public,” he wrote.

The study examined population health from 34 countries from 1990-2010. The National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the study.

The study identified leading diseases and injuries; how these health burdens have changed over the last 2 decades; and compared the outcomes with 34 other countries. It found that the United States did not keep pace with other wealthy nations.

The United States’ ranking for the age-standardized death rate dropped from 18 to 27; for the age-standardized years of life lost due to premature mortality rate from 23 to 28; for the age-standardized years lived with disability rate from 5 to 6; for life expectancy at birth from 20 to 27; and for healthy life expectancy from 14 to 26, the report said.

U.S. life expectancy for both sexes combined increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010. Healthy life expectancy increased from 65.8 years to 68.1 years. In 2010, diseases and injuries with the largest number of years of life lost due to premature death were ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and road injury.

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