US life expectancy below developed worlds' despite double healthcare spend

Washington, Oct 8 (ANI): Despite spending twice as much on healthcare than other countries, the life expectancy rate in the US is considerably low, a new study has revealed.

The study looked at health spending; behavioural risk factors like obesity and smoking; and 15-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. and 12 other nations-Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

While the U.S. has achieved gains in 15-year survival rates decade by decade between 1975 and 2005, the researchers discovered that other countries have experienced even greater gains, leading the U.S. to slip in country ranking, even as per capita health care spending in the U.S. increased at more than twice the rate of the comparison countries.

Fifteen-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. have fallen relative to the other 12 countries over the past 30 years.

Forty-five year old U.S. white women fared the worst-by 2005 their 15-year survival rates were lower than that of all the other countries.

Moreover, the survival rates of this group in 2005 had not even surpassed the 1975 15-year survival rates for Swiss, Swedish, Dutch or Japanese women.

The U.S. ranking for 15-year life expectancy for 45-year-old men also declined, falling from 3rd in 1975 to 12th in 2005.

When the researchers compared risk factors among the 13 countries, they found very little difference in smoking habits between the U.S. and the comparison countries-in fact, the U.S. had faster declines in smoking between 1975 and 2005 than almost all of the other countries.

The researchers said that the failure of the U.S. to make greater gains in survival rates with its greater spending on health care may be attributable to flaws in the overall health care system.

Specifically, they pointed to the role of unregulated fee-for-service payments and the reliance on specialty care as possible drivers of high spending without commensurate gains in life expectancy.

"It was shocking to see the U.S. falling behind other countries even as costs soared ahead of them," said lead author Peter Muennig of the Mailman School of Public Health.

"But what really surprised us was that all of the usual suspects-smoking, obesity, traffic accidents, homicides, and racial and ethnic diversity are not the culprits.

"The U.S. doesn't stand out as doing any worse in these areas than any of the other countries we studied, leading us to believe that failings in the U.S. health care system, such as costly specialized and fragmented care, are likely playing a large role in this relatively poor performance on improvements in life expectancy," he said.

Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund said: "This study provides stark evidence that the U.S. health care system has been failing Americans for years. It is unacceptable that the U.S. obtains so much less than should be expected from its unusually high spending on health care relative to other countries."

The study "What Changes in Survival Rates Tell Us About U.S. Health Care, has been published as a Health Affairs Web Exclusive. (ANI)

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