A report by the National Academies on health and life expectancy finds U.S. health is poorer than that of peer countries at every stage of life -- from birth to childhood to adolescence, in youth and middle age, and for older adults.
"The problem is not limited to people who are poor or uninsured," Eileen Crimmins of the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology, a member of the National Research Council panel that compiled the report, said in a statement. "Even Americans with health insurance, higher incomes, college education and healthy behaviors such as not smoking seem to be sicker than their counterparts in other countries."
The panel, chaired by Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, examined potential health disadvantages among younger Americans and found Americans are less likely than others to reach age 50.
Deaths before 50 accounted for about two-thirds of the difference in life expectancy for males in the United States and their counterparts in other developed countries, and about one-third of the difference for females, the report found.
The panel examined 17 high-income democracies and fund U.S. adults were much more likely than others to die of almost cause -- including injury, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and communicable diseases such as HIV.
Americans were most likely to die in transportation accidents, from violence, especially from firearms, and from maternal conditions related to pregnancy.
The United States has the highest incidence of AIDS among peer countries and Americans are more likely than others to have diabetes and high rates of obesity, starting in childhood. The United States is second to Denmark in deaths from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
The panel identified several likely explanations for the findings, including high levels of poverty and an environment designed around automobiles. Although Americans smoke and drink less, they consume the most calories per person and have higher rates of drug abuse, the report found.