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For nearly every major cause of premature death, including heart disease, diabetes and interpersonal violence, U.S. citizens die more frequently and younger than in other developed countries.
A study from a global collaboration of scientists led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington shows that even though the U.S. spends a fortune on healthcare, we generally have worse health than other wealthy nations.
“The United States spends more than the rest of the world on health care and leads the world in the quality and quantity of its health research, but that doesn’t add up to better health outcomes,” says Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME director and one of the lead authors on the study. “The country has done a good job of preventing premature deaths from stroke, but when it comes to lung cancer, preterm birth complications, and a range of other causes, the country isn’t keeping pace with high-income countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.”
The research shows that traffic accident injuries, self-inflicted harm, cirrhosis and drug use all cause more years of life lost due to premature death than previously understood. The study also demonstrated that there are more years of life lost because of drug use than prostate cancer and brain cancer combined, up 448 percent between 1990 and 2010. Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease and kidney cancer also are rising rapidly as sources of premature death.
Top 10 causes of years of life lost and their percentage of all years of life lost:
- Ischemic heart disease: 15.9 percent
- Lung cancer: 6.6 percent
- Stroke: 4.3 percent
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: 4.2 percent
- Road injury: 4.2 percent
- Self-harm: 3.2 percent
- Diabetes: 3.1 percent
- Cirrhosis: 2.7 percent
- Alzheimer’s disease: 2.6 percent
- Colorectal cancer: 2.4 percent
These researchers believe that if we can clean up our diet and get some exercise, we can recover much of our health.
“If the US can make progress with dietary risk factors, physical activity, and obesity, it will see massive reductions in death and disability,” says Dr. Ali Mokdad, head of the U.S. County Health Performance team for IHME and former director of the Behavior Risk Factors and Surveillance Survey at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity in the US cause more health loss than smoking, alcohol, or drug use.”