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A Fresh Look at Longevity Comparisons

September 22, 2009
2:20 pm

The United States healthcare system takes a beating in some quarters because of our lower life expectancy compared to other affluent, industrialized countries.  The blame is often placed on the contrast between our market-based healthcare system and the government-run systems found in Canada and much of Europe.

A new study, though, says that there are other compelling factors driving the longevity gap and that, actually, Americans are paying more for healthcare than other countries because we get more thorough treatment for many diseases.

The study is by Samuel H. Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading expert on mortality rates from disease.  His research is summarized in today’s New York Times.

Dr. Preston said the lower longevity rates in the U.S. are due to relatively high rates of death from heart disease and cancer.  The Times also said, “there are many more differences between Europe and the United States than just the health care system.  Americans are more ethnically diverse.  They eat different food.  They are fatter.  Perhaps most importantly, they used to be exceptionally heavy smokers.

In the article, Dr. Preston said he finds no evidence for the “much-quoted estimates that poor healthcare is responsible for more preventable deaths in the United States than in other developed countries.”  In fact, he said, compared with Europeans, Americans are more likely to be screened for cancer, have hypertension treated successfully more often and are more likely to receive medication if they have heart disease, high cholesterol, lung disease or osteoporosis.”

One Response to “A Fresh Look at Longevity Comparisons”

  1. James King Says:

    James King…

    Useful and interesting post. Was looking for some info Tuesday and came across your blog. Need to think about it….

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