U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health
- January 9, 2013
- Consensus Report
- Public Health, Aging
- Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries
- Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other high-income countries. This health disadvantage prevails even though the U.S. spends far more per person on health care than any other nation. To gain a better understanding of this problem, the NIH asked the National Research Council and the IOM to investigate potential reasons for the U.S. health disadvantage and to assess its larger implications.
No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage. It likely has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions. Without action to reverse current trends, the health of Americans will probably continue to fall behind that of people in other high-income countries. The tragedy is not that the U.S. is losing a contest with other countries, but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.