Washington, Jan 11 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Americans under the age of 50 are less healthy and die sooner than their peers in other developed countries, due to disease, car accidents, gun violence and drug overdose, says a new study by a panel of US experts.
"Since 1980, the US has had the first or second lowest probability of surviving to age 50 among the 17 peer countries," said the authors of the 18-month study by two non-profit research groups, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.
"Americans who do reach age 50 generally arrive at this age in poorer health than their counterparts in other high-income countries, and as older adults they face greater morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases that arise from risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, diabetes) that are often established earlier in life."
The study, whose results were described as "stark" by The New York Times, was commissioned to examine the reasons for a slower climb in longevity rates in the US that began in the 1980s, compared to other countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Norway and Britain.
In ranking life expectancy among the 17 nations, the group found that even though the US spends more on money on healthcare than any other country American men were at the bottom of the list with the lowest life expectancy, and American women were second from the bottom.
"Something fundamental is going wrong," lead panelist Steven Woolf, chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
"This is not the product of a particular administration or political party. Something at the core is causing the US to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it's getting worse."
What the study authors called the "US health disadvantage" appears to impact all Americans including those who are higher income, who don't smoke, and who are not overweight.
The study identified nine categories which appeared to negatively affect the mortality rates in the US, including high infant mortality rates, deaths from motor vehicle crashes and homicides, adolescent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and high rates of HIV and AIDS, obesity, drug deaths and heart disease.
It also noted that killings with guns were 20 times higher in the US than in other countries while the rate of suicides with firearms was six times higher.
"We expected to see some bad news and some good news," Woolf said. "But the US ranked near and at the bottom in almost every heath indicator. That stunned us."