Political Animal


January 10, 2013 1:25 PM No Country For Young Men (Or Women)

By Ed Kilgore

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times has a disturbing story on a new report identifying the real source of the United State’s persistently poor rankings among developed countries in measurements of health and health care: young people.

The 378-page study by a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council is the first to systematically compare death rates and health measures for people of all ages, including American youths. It went further than other studies in documenting the full range of causes of death, from diseases to accidents to violence. It was based on a broad review of mortality and health studies and statistics….
The panel called the pattern of higher rates of disease and shorter lives “the U.S. health disadvantage,” and said it was responsible for dragging the country to the bottom in terms of life expectancy over the past 30 years. American men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries in the study, and American women ranked second to last.
The findings were stark. Deaths before age 50 accounted for about two-thirds of the difference in life expectancy between males in the United States and their counterparts in 16 other developed countries, and about one-third of the difference for females. The countries in the analysis included Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and Spain.

A bit part of this sad picture comes from deaths by car accident and gun violence—i.e., plagues that don’t have that much to do with the health care system. But that’s not all:

The United States has the highest infant mortality rate among these countries, and its young people have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and deaths from car crashes. Americans lose more years of life before age 50 to alcohol and drug abuse than people in any of the other countries.

Think our health care system—and for that matter, our thin and ragged social safety net—might have something to do with those findings? Yep.

The panel sought to explain the poor performance. It noted the United States has a highly fragmented health care system, with limited primary care resources and a large uninsured population. It has the highest rates of poverty among the countries studied.
Education also played a role. Americans who have not graduated from high school die from diabetes at three times the rate of those with some college, Dr. Woolf said. In the other countries, more generous social safety nets buffer families from the health consequences of poverty, the report said.

And still people wonder why younger Americans tend to be more politically liberal than older folk. For some, it is a bit of a survival issue.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • m on January 10, 2013 1:46 PM:

    Just think how much better it will be when the Repubs achieve their goals of eliminating SS and Med and finally do away with all vestiges of Welfare.

    Party of life my ass

  • boatboy_srq on January 10, 2013 1:56 PM:

    And still people wonder why younger Americans tend to be more politically liberal than older folk. For some, it is a bit of a survival issue.

    THIS is why outfits like GOProud are generally a laughingstock within their larger communities. The GOTea has done an excellent job of reaching out to diverse constituencies - with a clenched fist, that is. The debate is decreasingly about economic and political generalities, and increasingly about enabling a rich, sustainable, diverse nation to survive as such. To the Teahad, there is no United States that legitimately includes anyone not precisely like them. The saddest part of this is that they're doing their level-best to ensure the quantifiably-accurate reality of their conviction.

    In the other countries, more generous social safety nets buffer families from the health consequences of poverty, the report said. Because all those other countries enable the survival of Teh Weak, Teh Layzee and Teh unSaved, instead of giving them a dose of good ol' Xtian Ahmurrcan tough love, donchano.

  • c u n d gulag on January 10, 2013 2:12 PM:

    Our infant mortality rate should make every single person in this country hang their heads in shame.

    Especially the "Pro-Life" crowd, who are also the ones who don't support Universal Health Care.

  • boatboy_srq on January 10, 2013 2:26 PM:

    @CUND: Can we please agree to call them "Anti-Choice"? Because their demands are all about denying women alternatives besides bearing the kids, and the target of their key goal - RvW - was only about abortion by accident? RvW is about whether a woman needs her husband/father/brother/son to make her healthcare decisions for her, not about whether keeping her baby was mandated by law.

    And besides, the only "life" they're "pro" is one that hasn't been born yet.

  • Donald Ball on January 10, 2013 2:42 PM:

    At least one research foretold the collapse of the USSR in the 80's by noting the rise in infant mortality.

  • dr2chase on January 10, 2013 3:58 PM:

    Ugh, I'll have to go read the multi-hundred page study. I tried to figure out this very thing using back-of-the-envelope math, and though murder, car accidents, and infant mortality do account for some of our reduced life expectancy, I did not get a huge change by "correcting" (perhaps ineptly) for all three -- from #49 to #37 in a recent list, and that's not "correcting" any other countries, either.

    One thing that might matter more than the car accidents is the lack of exercise; that effect seems to be at least 3 times larger (-2 years, instead of -2/3 year).

    Check my math, please: http://dr2chase.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/democrat-math/