I'm travelling and haven't had time to dig into this study, but it's consistent with other research:
In the new study, researchers examined the prevalence of illness among those 55 to 64 and 70 to 80. They also looked for the first time at the onset of new illnesses in those age groups in the United States and England during the years spanning 2002 to 2006. Finally, researchers examined trends in death rates in each country.
The findings showed that both disease prevalence and the onset of new disease were higher among Americans for the illnesses studied -- diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung diseases and cancer. Researchers found that the higher prevalence of illness among Americans compared to the English that they previously found for those aged 55 to 64 was also apparent for those in their 70s. Diabetes rates were almost twice as high in the United States as in England (17.2 percent versus 10.4 percent) and cancer prevalence was more than twice as high in the United States (17.9 percent compared to 7.8 percent) for people in their 70s.
In spite of both higher prevalence and incidence of disease in America, death rates among Americans were about the same in the younger ages in this period of life and actually lower at older ages compared to the English.
Researchers say there are two possible explanations why death rates are higher for English after age 65 as compared to Americans. One is that the illnesses studied result in higher mortality in England than in the United States. The second is that the English are diagnosed at a later stage in the disease process than 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," Smith said.
"The United States' health problem is not fundamentally a health care or insurance problem, at least at older ages," Banks said. "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."
The study also investigated the relationship between the financial resources of individuals in both countries and how soon they would they would die in the future.
While poorer people are more likely to die sooner than their more well-off counterparts, researchers say their finding supports the view that the primary pathway between health and wealth is that poor health leads to a depletion of household wealth, rather than being poor causes one's health to decline. Researchers found that the substantial changes in wealth that occurred in the years 1992 and 2002 in the United States through increases in stock prices and housing prices did not alter the probability of subsequent death.
Americans get sicker, from some combination of lifestyle and (possibly) gaps in income and social status; but studies looking at disease treatment often find that treatment is better in America. Of course, this is not always true; to some extent, "better treatment" is a term of art, and depends on what metrics you use. Even things like cancer survival rates--generally better in America--are disputed, because we detect more cancers early. Earlier detection means earlier treatment, which is generally thought to increase survival rates--but critics complain that it also means treating a lot of slow-growing cancers that were never going to grow large enough to be dangerous, which obviously boosts our survival rates.
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