That’s because there’s very little good news in his report comparing health in the U.S. to 16 peer nations.
We have the second highest mortality from noncommunicable diseases.
We’re fourth highest in death from communicable diseases.
And men in the U.S. have the lowest life expectancy at birth than men in 16 other countries. Women don’t do much better: they’re 16th out of 17.
Is there any good news? A smidge. The U.S. is good at keeping older people alive.
“For every five year age group from birth to age 75, the U.S. ranking for life expectancy is either at the bottom or near the bottom,” Woolf told a standing-room-only crowd at the morning session. “Older age groups appear to [fare better].”
Those figures show that the shorter U.S. life expectancy cannot be tied to diseases of middle age or infant mortality, Woolf said.
“We’re seeing a pervasive problem across all age groups,” he told attendees.
The Institute of Medicine report Woolf was presenting, “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” compared health in the U.S. with 16 peer countries — generally democracies with large economies and high incomes.
One of the findings is that the situation appears to be getting worse, not better.
In 1980, for example, life expectancy for U.S. women was about average — in the middle of the peer group. But since then, U.S. women have joined men at the bottom of the heap.
On specific measures, the U.S. is not gaining ground as fast as other countries. For example, from 1995 to 2009, mortality from transportation accidents fell about 40 percent in the 17 countries studied, Woolf said. But it fell just 11 percent in the U.S.
Reasons for the unhealthiness of Americans are myriad, but according to the report, they include lack of access to preventable care, higher rates of drug abuse, consumption of more calories per person and higher rates of poverty.
Despite all of these problems, Woolf reported that Americans’ perception of their own health is actually a high point of the study.
“Americans are much more likely to rate their health as excellent than people in other countries,” he said.
To download a copy of the IoM report, click here.