In an ambitious study, University of Washington researches led a global effort to look at quality of health in Americans compared to 34 other countries. The results, published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, were mixed.
"Life expectancy has gone up, that's a good thing. Even healthy years of life have increased. Not at the pace of other industrialized countries, but it has increased none the less. There's a lot more disability. There's a lot more years lived with chronic disease," said internal medicine specialist Dr. Katherine Pearce.
According to the research, the American life expectancy has jumped from about 72 years to about 78. However, 26 other countries have longer life expectancies, including Japan who tops the list at about 82 years.
The U.S. also has seen an increase in chronic illnesses later in life like heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
"This should make us humble because we've fallen. We're in the middle, about 28th or so in the countries with both life expectancy and worsen disability rates. These are things that are going to cost us our standard of living. These are things that are going to cause rationing in health care if we don't change them," said Dr. Mike Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic.
"I think our advances in treating and curing cases in a lot of cases has improved our life expectancy," said Pearce. "Overall I think our population has gotten so much bigger, the weight and the problems with obesity and inherent diabetes and blood pressure and cholesterol problems that come with that have led to more and more disability."
Most of the chronic diseases that seem to be cutting down life expectancy are related to lifestyle choices like smoking or poor diets. Local doctors hope this shows the importance of healthy living.
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