Poorest Brits are healthier than Richest Americans.

A study published by the American Medical Association shows that even the poorest Brits are healthier than the richest Americans:

Middle-aged, white Americans are much sicker than their counterparts in England, startling new research shows, despite U.S. health care spending per person that’s more than double what England spends.

A higher rate of Americans tested positive for diabetes and heart disease than the English. Americans also self-reported more diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease and cancer.

The gap between the countries holds true for educated and uneducated, rich and poor.

The study focused only on non-Hispanic whites and took factors like smoking, drinking and obesity into account – Brits tend to drink more heavily and more Americans are obese. It concluded that Americans tend to have a worse diet (eating more junk food) and took part in less exercise, but also that in Britain the primary health care provision was better, so that ailments were being picked up and treated earlier.

The media on both sides of the Atlantic constantly derides Britain’s state health care system but actually it does work nearly all the time, and studies like this show that.

5 thoughts on “Poorest Brits are healthier than Richest Americans.

  1. Actually the study’s authors have been very careful in interviews to point out that they haven’t drawn any conclusions other than Britons tend to be healthier than Americans. There’s nothing to say “Why” the discrepancy exists.

  2. I wasnt part of the study. How do I know it’s accurate?

    Just like every other poll/study/research on the planet. They may say all of america, but whats to keep them from testing just people from the area?

  3. The suggestion about superior primary care in the UK isn’t from the study:

    Earlier studies have shown the United States does a poorer job than other industrialized countries at providing primary medical care to its citizens, particularly to those with less education and income, said Dr. Barbara Starfield, a professor of health policy and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University.

    “Countries oriented toward providing good primary care basically do better in health,” she said.

    In fact, that explanation is explicitly disclaimed in the USA Today article:

    However, Britain’s universal health care system shouldn’t get credit for better health, [study co-writer] Marmot and [policy analyst] Blendon agreed.

    Both said it might explain better health for low-income citizens, but can’t account for better health of England’s more affluent residents.

    Marmot cautioned against looking for explanations in the two countries’ health care systems.

    “It’s not just how we treat people when they get ill, but why they get ill in the first place,” Marmot said.

    There was an NPR article on this earlier in the week, where Marmot also rejected the health care system—which, since we’re talking about the wealthiest Americans, who presumably have access to superior technology and health care spending, should be doing better.

    And I mention it in conjunction with the ongoing debate in the UK about how many hospitals are going to have to be closed because of continuing budget overruns on spending there.

    Don’t get me wrong—I suspect that, sooner or later, and for very good reasons, we will have to go to some sort of single-payer or government-organized health care system.  But Britain’s NHS isn’t what appears to be behind this study’s results.

  4. How do I know it’s accurate?

    Read it. Try to replicate it. Try to break their methodology. Question everything. If it survives, it’s viable science and probably accurate.

    Considering the limited resources of most of us (do you have access to the medical records of thousands and the time to create the DBs needed to turn the data into usable forms? Hell, I can’t even afford the fee to get the article from JAMA), most of us lay-people will need to wait and see if the rest of the sci-community thinks this is worth pursuing. If there are problems in the study then we’ll start hearing about them.

    But already I’m leaning toward the position that the study is ok. Why? The very cautious attitude of the authors and that, for them, the findings were unexpected, they retested and came up with the same/similar results AND accepted the unexpected results (even if that might have broken the original hypothesis they were working from).

  5. The stats for infant mortality came out yesterday and we didn’t fare so well there, either.  whazzup?

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