US older folk are sicker, but they live longer than Brits, new survey finds

The elderly in the United States are sicker than older people in the UK, but they also live longer, a new study found.

Americans aged 55 and older suffer from a higher rate of chronic illness, but Brits are more likely to die younger, says research from the US’s RAND Corp.and the Institute for Fiscal Studies in Britain.

olderrunners.jpgThe findings have stirred up the long-standing debate over which country has the better health care system.

Study co-author, James Smith, an economist at RAMD said: “If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States. It appears that at least in terms of survival at older ages with chronic disease, the medical system in the United States may be better than the system in England.””

But Americans have to pay fare more than Brits for their healthcare – nearly double, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The most recent data, from 2008. shows that the America spent 16 percent their total expenditure on health, which amounted to $7,538 a person. The average health-care cost per person in OECD member nations is $3,000

Longevity expert Dr. Walter M. Bortz, author of Road Map to 100,” “Living Longer for Dummies” and a new book about health care called “Next Medicine” said: “Americans love to be sick. America is sicker because we love to go to the doctor, but the doctor loves to see us too,” he said. “We spend twice as much as any other country of the world – and we’re not better for it.That’s prolonging dying.”

The research also looked at the results from two studies of aged 50+: the Health and Retirement Survey, which examined more than 20,000 people, and the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing, which covered 12,000 people. They looked at age of death, the ages at which new illnesses developed and the rates of common chronic conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, lung disease and diabetes.

The study published in the journal Demography, found that rates of cancer were more than double for Americans than for the British, 17.9 percent in America compared to 7.8 percent in the UK.  The British had nearly half as many cases of diabetes than the Americans, 10.4 percent compared to 17.2 percent.

Though the death rates were almost the same among American and English people aged 55 to 64, those aged 70 to 80 died earlier in the UK compared to the US. The reearch team said the results showed that Americans lived longer despite being plagued by more disease.

“The differences are striking,” another of the article’s authors, James Banks of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told Reuters. “That’s got to be an important priority for policy in terms of lifestyle or behavioral factors.”

Health care in the UK is provided by the Government-funded National Health System, which has come under fire and has been used as a bad example of a public health-care system by critics of President Obama’s plan.

Smith said the US system is better at treating sick people and prolonging their lives than the British one, even though it is not as good in at preventing them from getting ill.

“We are consecrated to repair in America,” said Bortz. “We should be consecrated to prevention.”

He believes there is a secret to a longer life.

“Aging is no longer an unknown. It comes down to fitness,” said Bortz, who just ran the Boston marathon for his 80th birthday. “Fitness is a 30-year age offset.”

One thought on “US older folk are sicker, but they live longer than Brits, new survey finds

  1. Fitness is important but it is only a small part of the longevity equation. The “longevity Pyramid”, which is based on observations in many “longevity villages” in Southern Europe, shows that there is MUCH more to longevity than strenuous physical activity, proper nutrition and stress management.

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