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U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.


National Research Council (US); Institute of Medicine (US); Woolf SH, Aron L, editors.


Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2013.
The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health.


The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. A growing body of research is calling attention to this problem, with a 2011 report by the National Research Council confirming a large and rising international “mortality gap” among adults age 50 and older. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people, because recent studies suggest that even highly advantaged Americans may be in worse health than their counterparts in other countries. As a follow-up to the 2011 National Research Council report and in light of this new evidence, the National Institutes of Health asked the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to convene a panel of experts to study this issue. The Panel on Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries was charged with examining whether the U.S. health disadvantage exists across the life span, exploring potential explanations, and assessing the larger implications of the findings.

Copyright © 2013, National Academy of Sciences.

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