Older White Americans Sicker than British Peers

The above is the headline from an article that appeared on the USA Today website on November 6, 2010. The article reports on a study released on November 4, 2010 by the Rand Corporation showing that older white Americans are sicker than older white British citizens. The study conducted by Rand specifically looked at White Americans and Britains in the age groups of 55-64 and 70-80 during the years 2002 to 2006.

Co-author James Smith, a senior economist at the Rand Corporation noted why only white populations were studied by saying, “We did so to eliminate the possibility that minorities in both countries could be causing the health differences.”

The study finding showed that between the ages of 55 to 64 Americans have higher rates of chronic diseases than their English counterparts and they also died at about the same rate. In the older group of between 70 and 80 years of age, the results showed that disease prevalence and the onset of new diseases were higher among Americans for the illnesses studied, which included diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung diseases and cancer. However, in this older group the study did show that even though Americans were less healthy, they were on average outliving their British counterparts in this age group.

In commenting on the findings Smith explained in the USA Today article, “Americans are taking worse care of themselves but getting better care from the health care system. My fear is that unless we are able to improve ourselves in terms of sickness, making up for this with good medical care will be harder and harder to sustain in the future.”

In the USA Today article David Rehkopf, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, put things in perspective by commenting, “The better care that Americans get from their health-care system occurs very late in the disease process.” He continued, “However, because less focus is put on prevention, we have to live and manage chronic disease and illness for long periods of time. The findings suggest that the main deficiencies in the U.S. health system may be in preventing disease from occurring. This is important to begin to address if people want to also live disease-free, rather than just longer.”

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