How is it possible that Americans are living shorter lives with poorer health than the rest of the “rich” countries???

The United States of America spends more money on healthcare than any other country in the world. And yet, Americans have a lower life expectancy and higher rates of disease and injury than almost all other high-income countries.

  • How is it possible that Americans are living shorter lives with poorer health than the rest of the “rich” countries???
  • And why is it happening?

The Data

When compared with the average for peer countries, the United States fares worse in nine health domains:

1. Adverse birth outcomes

For decades, the United States has experienced the highest infant mortality rate of high-income countries and also ranks poorly on other birth outcomes, such as low birth weight. American children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries.

  • Infant mortality


How is it possible that almost 3x as many babies die in the US than in Sweden?

2. Injuries and homicides

Deaths from motor vehicle crashes, non-transportation-related injuries, and violence occur at much higher rates in the United States than in other countries and are a leading cause of death in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since the 1950s, U.S. adolescents and young adults have died at higher rates from traffic accidents and homicide than their counterparts in other countries.

  • Deaths from traffic accidents


  • Violent deaths


Hmmmmm, American boys dying violent deaths…I wonder what could be causing that?

3. Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections

Since the 1990s, among high-income countries, U.S. adolescents have had the highest rate of pregnancies and are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted infections.

  • Adolescent birth rate


The boys are dying violent deaths, the girls are getting knocked up and everyone is getting sexually transmitted infections. Well done.

4. HIV and AIDS

The United States has the second highest prevalence of HIV infection among the 17 peer countries and the highest incidence of AIDS.

No surprise considering the high rate of sexually transmitted infections. 

5. Drug-related mortality

Americans lose more years of life to alcohol and other drugs than people in peer countries, even when deaths from drunk driving are excluded.

This might explain all the pregnancies and STIs.

6. Obesity and diabetes

For decades, the United States has had the highest obesity rate among high-income countries. High prevalence rates for obesity are seen in U.S. children and in every age group thereafter. From age 20 onward, U.S. adults have among the highest prevalence rates of diabetes (and high plasma glucose levels) among peer countries.


Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and a whole bunch more lifestyle related medical conditions are driving America’s medical costs up and up year after year.

7. Heart disease

The U.S. death rate from ischemic heart disease is the second highest among the 17 peer countries. Americans reach age 50 with a less favorable cardiovascular risk profile than their peers in Europe, and adults over age 50 are more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease than are older adults in other high-income countries.

Hmmmmmmm, the home of McDonalds and Coca-Cola has the second highest rate of ischemic heart disease amongst their peer countries. Quel surprise.

8. Chronic lung disease

Lung disease is more prevalent and associated with higher mortality in the United States than in the United Kingdom and other European countries.

9. Disability

Older U.S. adults report a higher prevalence of arthritis and activity limitations than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, other European countries, and Japan.

NOTE #1 – Looking at all of these problems which cause Americans to live shorter lives with poorer health than the rest of the world’s “rich” countries, I keep seeing the same root problem. POOR LIFESTYLE CHOICES

  • Poor diet – quantity & quality
  • Inactivity
  • Violent culture + easy access to guns
  • Unprotected sex
  • High rates of drug & alcohol abuse

NOTE #2If you want all the details on this research, head over to the National Acadamies Press and download a free pdf copy of the report 

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