Older Americans live as long or longer than their English counterparts even though Americans suffer from much higher rates of chronic disease, according to a new study by researchers from the RAND Corporation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.
The study suggests that medical care in the United States, at least for older Americans, is better than it is in England, but Americans’ lifestyles, behavior and perhaps their living conditions contribute to a greater rate of illness. Things like occupation, marital status, education, obesity and smoking influence health and the onset of disease more than medical care, the authors said.
The study found that Americans aged 55 and older were more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung diseases and cancer. Diabetes was almost twice as common in the United States, and people in their 70s were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer in the United States as their peers in England.
But death rates among Americans were about the same as the British among those aged 55 to 64, and lower among those 70 and older.
Researchers cite two possible explanations for this disparity. Either the illnesses studied result in a higher death rate in England, or the English are diagnosed at a later stage of the disease than are Americans.
“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,” said James P. Smith, a RAND researcher and co-author of the study, which was published in the journal Demography.
“The United States’ health problem is not fundamentally a health care or insurance problem, at least at older ages,” said James Banks of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. “It is a problem of excess illness, and the solution to that problem may lie outside the health care delivery system. The solution may be to alter lifestyles or other behaviors.”
For more information on this research, go here.
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