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Middle-Aged Patients in U.K. Healthier Than Americans

Despite spending more on health care, Americans aged 55 to 64 are more likely to be ill

TUESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Despite spending about twice as much per capita on medical care in the United States, middle-aged and older Americans are more likely than Britons the same age to have a range of serious ailments, according to a study published in the May 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

James Banks, Ph.D., of University College London and the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London, and colleagues looked at data from the U.S. Health and Retirement Survey containing self-reported health and socioeconomic information on 4,386 white Americans between the ages of 55 and 64, and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, which contains similar information on 3,681 white Britons.

Patients in the United States were more likely than those in the United Kingdom to have diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease and cancer. The difference in rates of diabetes and hypertension were among the most dramatic, with diabetes prevalence twice as high in the U.S. as the U.K. (12.5 percent versus 6.1 percent) and hypertension prevalence about 10 percentage points higher in the U.S. than in the U.K. In both countries, lower socioeconomic status (SES) was tied to poorer health.

"Two simple but powerful conclusions follow from our comparisons using biological and self-reports of disease in England and the United States," the authors conclude. "First, Americans are much sicker than the English. Self-reports of disease are not deceiving us about the reality of the situation on one side of the Atlantic versus the other. Second, the SES-health gradient is also not a reporting mirage. Instead, the SES-health gradient appears with equal force in either self-reports or biological measures of health."

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