A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Startling Results: US vs. European Rates of Chronic Disease

Startling Results: US vs. European Rates of Chronic Disease

October 3, 2007

This is amazing...New study by Ken Thorpe of Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University comparing US and European rates of chronic disease (summary from Kaiser Daily Report):

Older U.S. adults are twice as likely as older European adults to have a number of chronic diseases, many of which are related to obesity and smoking, according to a study published Tuesday on the Web site of the journal Health Affairs... For the study, researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University examined information from 2004 on the treatment of chronic diseases among adults ages 50 and older in the U.S. and 10 European nations -- Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland... The study found:

1. Older U.S. adults were twice as likely as older European adults to have heart disease.

2. Older U.S. adults were more than twice as likely as older European adults to have arthritis;

3. 12.2% of older U.S. adults had cancer, compared with 5.4% of older European adults;

4. 16% of older U.S. adults had diabetes, compared with 11% of older European adults;

5. 33.1% of older U.S. adults were classified as obese, compared with 17.1% of older European adults; and

6. 53% of older U.S. adults were active or former smokers, compared with 43% of older European adults.

Something's really screwy with a society that produces results like these. Here's Thorpe's comment:

"We expected to see differences between disease prevalence in the United States and Europe, but the extent of the differences is surprising," adding, "It is possible that we spend more on health care because we are, indeed, less healthy." In addition, he said, "I think the big difference is the doubling of obesity rates," adding, "If you look at the doctor-diagnosed rates of diabetes and other chronic diseases related to obesity, it's just startling."