Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Healthcare:  Life Expectancy by Country

Which OECD countries have the longest life expectancies? Japan's life expectancy is nearly 83 years with European countries like Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Israel and Australia only a year or two behind. Japan's relative advantage is related to not only genetics but also its universal health care system, generally better diet and low levels of inequality.

What about the United States? Well, that is unfortunately a very different story. The United States has a life expectancy of around 78 years, comparable to Cuba and near the bottom of the [34] OECD countries. The few OECD countries that lag behind the United States (Czech Republic, Poland, Mexico, Slovak Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Turkey) all have vastly lower measures of wealth. In 2000, the World Health Organization rated the United States' health system as 37th in the world, below middle income countries such as Columbia, Costa Rica, and Chile.

Life expectancy in the United States isn't uniform but rather there is a huge amount of variability within the country. For example, African-American urban men live about 20 years less than Asian-American women. Geographically, residents in diverse states such as Hawaii, Minnesota, California and New York have average life expectancies more than five years longer than people in Mississippi, West Virginia and Alabama where the influence of racial and economic disparities are related to this state-to-state difference.

It is remarkable that American's pay 2-5 times more for healthcare than most OECD countries while having one of the shortest life expectancies. If you think of health expenditures as an investment with longevity being the return on this investment, then we can say that the United States receives a much lower return on its investment than other wealthy countries.

From 5 Countries with the Longest Life Expectancy: OECD by Howard Steven Friedman, May 27, 2011 at The Huffington Post.

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