Americans Outlive English, Study Finds

Despite Being Less Healthy, Americans Live Longer Than U.K. Residents

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 04, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 4, 2010 -- Older Americans are not quite as healthy as their English counterparts, but do live just as long, if not longer, according to a new study in Demographics.

In the new study, Americans aged 55 to 64 and 70 to 80 had higher rates of chronic diseases than same-aged English people, but they died at about the same rate. And Americans aged 65 and older -- while still sicker than their English peers -- actually lived longer than similar-aged people in England.

"If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States," study author James P. Smith, PhD, of the nonprofit RAND corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., says in a news release. "It appears that at least in terms of survival at older ages with chronic disease, the medical system in the United States may be better than the system in England."

Researchers drew these conclusions after they analyzed information from the U.S. Health and Retirement Survey and the English Longitudinal Survey of Aging to determine the prevalence of illness among people aged 55 to 64 and 70 to 80. They also looked at the development of any new illnesses during these years.

Better Medical Care in U.S.?

Overall, disease prevalence and the onset of new disease were higher among Americans for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung diseases, and cancer, the new report shows. Researchers found that the higher prevalence of illness among Americans aged 55 to 64 also carried over to their 70s.

Specifically, diabetes rates were nearly twice as high in the United States than in England, and cancer was more than twice as prevalent in the United States for senior citizens in their 70s, the study showed.

Americans and their English counterparts were equally likely to die from chronic diseases during the ages of 55 to 64, but Americans tend to live longer with chronic diseases during their 70s.

The researchers speculate that this may be because these same illnesses are more likely to be fatal in England than in America, or that English people may be diagnosed at later stages in their disease, which would result in a higher mortality rate.

"Both of these explanations imply that there is higher-quality medical care in the United States than in England, at least in the sense that these chronic illnesses are less likely to cause death among people living in the United States," Smith says.