A large study, which looked at the health of middle class, middle-aged, white residents in both the USA and Britain found that the British enjoy much better health than their American counterparts. Even though the USA has a much higher income per capita than the UK, about 25% higher, the British are far ahead when it comes to the health of its residents.

Americans also spend a great deal more on health care than the British do. The average expenditure per head per year on health in the UK is $2,164, while in the USA it stands at $5,274.

You can read about this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), May 3 Issue.

Even when obesity, drinking, smoking and social levels are taken into account, the difference between the two nations is significant.

Here are some figures showing the incidence of some diseases:

USA – 12.5%
UK – 6.1%

High Blood Pressure
USA – 42.4%
UK – 33.8%

Heart Disease
USA – 15.1%
UK – 9.6%

USA – 9.5%
UK – 5.5%

Lung Disease
USA – 8.1%
UK – 6.3%

USA – 3.8%
UK – 2.3%

Heart Attack
USA – 5.5%
UK – 4%

The study looked at the health of 6,400 Americans and 9,300 British people aged 40-70.

The researchers also found that in many aspects of health the UK people at the lower end of the social scale enjoyed better health than the Americans at the top end. Heart disease in Britain’s lowest group stood at 11.6%, while for the highest American group it was 12%.

The researchers are not sure what the reason(s) for this disparity may be. There are many factors which could be responsible. Here is a list:

— Britain has a universal health care system which is free for everyone. The USA has a patchwork of public and private healthcare. However, this study looked at well-off white residents – in both countries, all the people studied had good access to health care.

— The USA has a bigger obesity/overweight problem than the UK does. The obesity/overweight problem has been present in the USA for longer than in the UK.

— The British are more physically active than the Americans. People walk and cycle more in Britain than in America. The British also use public transport more.

— Americans eat more junk food than the British do.

— American food portions are much bigger than British ones. American portions are three times the size of a portion in the 1970s.

— Americans are not addressing the underlying problems of obesity as much as the British are. Americans are treating the symptoms of obesity, rather than the reasons for it. However, it must be pointed out that the British are getting fatter and people complain not enough is being done to address the reasons for rising obesity levels in Britain.

— Americans suffer from higher levels of stress than the British do.

If all the British have access to free health care, which is not the case in America, one wonders what the health disparities would be if all sectors of society in both countries were studied and compared.

Britain does not enjoy better levels of health when compared to many of its European neighbours.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today