Thursday, May 11, 2006

Living in America makes you sick

Malcolm Gladwell, whose blog photo makes him look like the love child of Simon and Garfunkel, talks about an interesting new medical study:
[...] The point was to compare the health of the United States and the United Kingdom. It’s an interesting question for a number of reasons, but principally because the United States spends $5274 per person, per year, on health care and the United Kingdom spends $2164, or substantially less than half as much. The question is—what do we get, in terms of health, that for extra $3100 a year? [...]

The first conclusion is that Americans are really, really sick compared to the British. In every socio-economic group, for instance, the prevalence of diabetes is roughly double in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom. Rates of hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, lung disease and cancer are also all higher in the United States. And not just a little big higher. Much higher. [...]

[Paul] Krugman argues that this is evidence of how much more stressful living in America is than living in England. I think that's absolutely right.
So let me see if I understand this. There's something about just living here in the U.S. that's—what, toxic? Evidently so. I would expect that if it's stress-related, there should be a greater incidence of mental illness, too, but the article doesn't mention it. It takes no more than a familiarity with current events to conclude that we're living in some kind of Golden Age of Insanity, with America leading the way.

I'd like to know what this study really means. Some of the diseases they mention are known to be linked to stress, but cancer? Lung disease? Diabetes? Not so much, as far as I know. Are we living in a toxic culture? What the hell? It's a real noggin-scratcher, as Flanders might say. he's always so cheerful, so he'll probably be fine.


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