New York, NY – Despite higher levels of spending on healthcare in the United States, rates of disease are considerably higher in the U.S. than in England across the entire life span according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Columbia University School of Social Work, Princeton University, and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, compared the health of residents in the United States and England from childhood to 80 years, focusing on nine markers of disease. The conditions assessed include obesity, hypertension, diabetes, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, high cholesterol ratio, high C-reactive protein, asthma, angina, and stroke. The findings indicate that across most of these markers of health, Americans fare worse than the English and that health differences are as pronounced at very young ages as they are in middle and later life. Health differences reported in the study are statistically significant for all but one condition (hypertension).
“The differences in health that people have found at older ages already exist at very young ages. That is both an important and surprising finding as it is inconsistent with many theories about why Americans are less healthy than the English,” says co-author Julien Teitler, associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work.
The authors argue that the poorer health of Americans cannot be accounted for by differences in rates of health insurance coverage, smoking, or obesity. Why health status differs so dramatically in these two countries, beginning in childhood, remains an open question. But Teitler notes that “given the emergence of large health differences at the youngest ages for which we have data, the causes of the U.S. health disadvantage are likely rooted in early life (or even prenatal) experiences or environments and possibly in the extent of preventive care received.”
The study used data from the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys for the U.S. and the 2003-2006 Health Surveys for England. Both surveys are very large nationally representative studies that include information on self-reported health as well as from physical exams and lab tests.
The study was conducted by Dr. Melissa Martinson (Princeton University) as part of her doctoral dissertation at the Columbia University School of Social Work, Dr. Julien Teitler (Columbia University School of Social Work) and Dr. Nancy Reichman (Robert Wood Johnson Medical School).
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