Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lifestyle Choices v. Life Expectancy

7thspace.com: The current health care debate in the United States is complicated. Trade-offs between heath care expenditures, lifestyle choices and life expectancy have been suggested but seldom clearly demonstrated. The U.S. spends on average more than $45,000 per year on health care for every 80 year old, while the Europeans spend $12,000 for the same age group. U.S. octogenarians have a 20 percent less chance of dying than Europeans in the next year. But, more than 30 percent of the U.S. population is obese, compared to less than 10 percent of Europe's population.

"Many of the lifestyle choices that we make as adults have negative health consequences," said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. "But once we reach retirement age, it appears that differences in the medical systems start to favor the U.S."
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The research shows that prostate cancer, which has few lifestyle risk factors, is a much greater killer in Europe. In 11 European countries (including Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands and the United Kingdom) a man in his 70s has a higher chance of dying from prostate cancer than a man in Mississippi, the U.S. state with the highest risk. When compared to residents of Hawaii, the U.S. state with the lowest prostate cancer risk, Europeans are two to three times more likely to die from prostrate cancer.

The tables are reversed when comparing the diabetes death risk for men in their 70s, a risk highly related to lifestyle choices and obesity. Fifteen European countries (including Greece, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany and France) have lower risks than Iowa, the U.S. state with the lowest risk. Louisiana, the U.S. state with the highest risk, has a risk that is 10 times greater than Iceland, the lowest risk European country for diabetes.



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