America, Where Even the Desperately Ill Say They're Healthy

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has released their latest health indicators report, and while you may not find 200 pages of charts and graphs on cross-national health comparisons as fascinating as weirdos like me do, let me just point to a couple of interesting things. Most of the findings will be pretty familiar to people who have followed the health-care issue in the last few years, but there's at least one thing that surprised me, which I'll get to in a minute. First though, I have to point to this graph, which shows just what an outlier the United States is in terms of what we spend on health care and what we get. It shows the relationship between spending and life expectancy:


As you can see, there's a strong relationship between health spending and life expectancy—for everyone except us. Japan, for instance, has a life expectancy of 82.8, compared to our 78.7, despite the fact that they spend less than half as much per capita as we do.

But here's my favorite finding. On most health measures, the United States scores below countries in Scandinavia and Western Europe, winding up around the middle of the OECD pack. Although we have low rates of smoking, for instance, we've got the highest rate of obesity. There are some measures we score better on and some where we score worse, but that's about what it averages. But take a look at this:


That's right: we may not be anywhere close to number one in actual health status, but we're number one in perceived health status. USA! USA!

This obviously has a lot to do with culture. Look at Japan, where only 30 percent of people say they're in good health, compared to almost 90 percent of Americans. In truth, the Japanese are pretty much the healthiest people in the world. They have the longest life expectancy, the lowest rate of heart disease (we come in 22nd on that one), the fifth-lowest rate of cancer mortality (we're tenth), and the third-lowest rate of infant mortality (we're 31st). Yet either they have a different conception of what "healthy" means than we do, or they're a nation of pessimists. Here in America, on the other hand, when you ask even the morbidly obese diabetic how his health is, he says, "I'm doing great!"


Read Politico or Real Clear Politics to see the shame put on people who use government help for any reason. A woman was sad because her Mother had paid much money though poor to avoid medicaid and now was forced to go onto medicaid by the ACA. She was shamed. Republicans are the "makers" and Democrats/poor/etc are the "takers". They are upset about their own health care being interrupted, but have no sympathy for anyone else under any circumstances. Of course they say they are fine. Do do otherwise would mean possibly losing a job, losing health care with a pre-existing condition or being disrespected by your friends. With time the ACA will be accepted and the "new normal" will change.

Those still in the middle class also cling to the delusion that we have the highest overall quality of life among all modern nations, in spite of years of the middle class war on the poor. The US went from #1 among all nations in overall quality of life when Reagan took office, down to #11, with the steepest decline being the direct result of Bill Clinton's anti-poor/pro-corporate policies.

You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)