For generations, the United States has prided itself as having one of the highest standards of living in the world. In many ways, I think that we indeed do. However, last week I read a January 10th New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise that exposed some glaring exceptions to our nation’s complacence. Ms. Tavernise reported on recent research comparing U.S. health and longevity with that of 16 other developed countries, such as Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Japan and Portugal. Here are some of the stark findings:
- The 12% rate of premature babies in the U.S. is similar to that of a lot of third-world African countries.
- Americans consumed a daily average of nearly 3800 calories, representing a higher caloric-intake average than any of the other 16 nations that were studied. Such inflated consumption is consistent with our high rate of obesity and diabetes.
- Americans abuse the greatest amount of prescription and illicit drugs.
- Only Finland had a higher per capita incidence of deaths from heart disease than Americans.
For me, the most flagrant data indicated that:
- Deaths from injuries, motor vehicle accidents and violence occur at much higher rates in the U.S. than in the comparison countries and are a major cause of death in children, adolescents and young adults.
- Gun-based homicides were 20 times higher and firearm-related suicides were six times higher in the U.S. than in the other nations.
- Overall, the rate of deaths prior to age 50 in our country exceeded those in the comparison nations.
In essence, the research confirms what many Americans observe and/or have previously learned via media sources: the United States markedly lags behind a lot of peer nations in several vital areas of health, as well as regarding longevity. My sense is that many of us take better care of our material possessions than we do of our own bodies and too commonly have a low disregard for life.
I know that the above data is sobering and I hope that the stark reality will create more than a brief pause for reflection. I’m rooting for each of us to act on what we know we need to do to propel ourselves fully into LIFE in 2013 and beyond!