November 4th, 2010
03:19 PM ET
Who's sicker: Older Americans or English?
If you're 65 or older, you're more likely to be healthier in England than in America. The catch: in the United States, you're more likely to live longer, a new study finds.
Chronic diseases are more common in Americans than English aged 55 to 64, a study in the journal Demography found, and in this age group American and English have about the same death rate. At the same time, Americans 65 and older don't die as fast as the same age group in England, the study authors found.
Why would this be? It seems that if you live into your 70s, the American medical system takes care of you better, said study co-author James Smith of the RAND Corporation.
"In the United States, we have very aggressive medical care and we spend a ton of money on it," he said. "It is very aggressive and we get something out of it: longer lives."
Essentially, says Smith, Americans are "compensating for bad habits." Americans would be better off with eating a healthier diet, exercising more, not smoking, drinking only moderately, and reducing the stress in their lives.
Generally, people in England seem to receive diagnoses of their conditions later in the course of the disease than in the United States, study authors said. Also, chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer result in higher mortality in England than in the United States.
Comparing the United States with England, Smith pointed to the heavier use of screenings such as prostate cancer tests in the United States., and the more frequent and immediate use of surgery when possible cancers are discovered.
Americans in their 70s are also more likely to have conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and cancer than elderly English, the study found. The prevalence of cancer among the 70-somethings surveyed was more than twice as high in the United States, and diabetes rates were nearly twice as high among Americans, too. Older Americans additionally have a higher risk of the onset of a new disease than older English.
Data came from large surveys of people in the United States and England.
The study also looked at the question of whether wealth affects health among survey participants. Smith and colleagues found actually that poor health leads to less wealth, not the other way around.
This was true in both the United States and England. For the United States, researchers looked at 1992 to 2002, a period that saw growing prosperity in the stock market and housing prices. It turns out that the likelihood of death did not depend on changes in wealth during this time.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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