Americans Living Longer but Obesity Rising

CDC Report Tallies Spending, Health Care Access, and Disease Trends

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on May 15, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

May 16, 2012 -- The CDC today released its annual state of the union's health, and there's good news and bad. We're living longer. But we're also gaining more weight. Teen pregnancies are at a record low. But fewer people can afford necessary prescription drugs and medical care.

The 583-page federally mandated report, titled "Health, United States 2011," also compares how well -- or how poorly -- we fare today with how we were doing over the past decade or so.

This year's report features a special section on how our socioeconomic status and health are related. Here are some highlights:

The Health Gap: Income- and Education-Related Disparities

  • Childhood obesity rates go down as parent education goes up: Nearly a quarter of children whose parents have less than a high school education were obese, which is two to three times more than kids whose parents (or heads of household) had finished college.
  • Seventy-five percent of college-educated mothers breastfed their babies for at least three months, compared to less than half of women who did not finish college.
  • 45- to 64-year-old adults living below the poverty line were as much as five times as likely to be depressed as those living well above it.
  • Nearly a third of adults who only finished high school still smoke, compared to less than 10% among those with a college degree.
  • The number of uninsured children decreased, particularly among those closest to the poverty line: from 22% down to 11-13% in families below 200% of the poverty level.
  • Low-income adults were as much as six times more likely to be uninsured than those who have a family income at 400% or more of the poverty level. They were also much less likely to seek timely medical care.

Life Expectancy, Disease, and Risk Factors

  • We are living longer. Since 1980, men's life expectancy rose from 70 to 76, while women's increased from 77 to 81.
  • Heart disease remains the most common killer for both men and women. It causes about one-quarter of all deaths each year. But over the past 10 years, the number of heart disease deaths has dropped by 32%.
  • Deaths caused by stroke dropped by about a third for both men and women. Cancer deaths are also down -- by 15% for men and 11% for women.
  • Nearly half of all adults with high blood pressure don't have it under control, though this percentage has gone down significantly since the early 1990s. The number of adults with high cholesterol also dropped during this period.
  • Since 1994, obesity has gone up among all age groups. Nearly 20% of school-age children are now obese, while one-fifth of adults over 20 now have a BMI greater than 30 (which is considered obese).
  • In 2010, only half of adults over 18 met the federal recommendations for physical activity.
  • The number of 40-and-older women who had a mammogram over the past two years has held steady for a decade, while many more adults ages 50 to 75 are now being screened for colorectal cancer than 10 years ago.
  • Drug poisoning deaths doubled between 2000 and 2008. Opioid painkillers accounted for 40% of those deaths in 2008.

How Much We Pay for Health Care

  • Americans visited a health care provider 1.3 billion times in 2009. That same year, $2.5 trillion dollars was spent on health care. That works out to average of $8,000 per person. Nearly a third of the money was spent on hospitals.
  • Prescription drug costs went up more than 5% between 2008 and 2009 for a total of $249.9 billion, more than double what we spent in 2000.
  • Private health insurance covered a third of personal health care expenses in 2009. Consumers covered 14% out of pocket. The rest was paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and others. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) cost less than 1% of the total of all health care costs. Along with Medicaid, CHIP insures 54% of children, up from 28% in 2000.
  • Employees getting health insurance from their employer decreased, from 67% to 57%, between 2000 and 2010. Eight percent of children and 22% of adults had no insurance of any kind in 2010.
  • Eleven percent to 17% of American adults do not receive timely care, necessary medications, or dental care due to cost.