I stumbled across this thumbing through Men’s Health. Interesting and a real eye opener. Check it out.
It’s no secret that Americans are unhealthy—and a new study from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) just rubs it in: The United States is the unhealthiest industrialized nation in the world, and seems to be getting worse.
Researchers compared health measures for 17 countries including infant mortality rate, injuries and murders, heart disease, obesity, and sexually transmitted disease, and the U.S. landed in last place. It’s probably due to a combination of factors, says Steven Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the IOM study group. The U.S. leads the world in hours spent watching T.V., substance abuse, and percentage of people taking legally prescribed drugs. (Hey, so we did come in first in something!)
Another reason for the health issues: income disparity. While the richest Americans have access to the best medical care, lower income Americans can’t afford even the basics. But money doesn’t make you healthy. Those big houses on cul-de-sacs in the suburbs may have nice lawns, but that that style of living makes you more dependent on your car and less likely to walk places, the researchers say. In fact, the study found that people living on a cul-de-sac are, on average, 10 pounds heavier than people living on a grid of streets.
And that’s pretty bad, but it’s not all so grim. So cheer up, America! Here are three key—and actually positive—areas where the United States does excel:
1. The U.S. produces more scientific and medical innovation than anywhere else on the globe. Of all the scientific papers published in the world, 27 percent come from the United States, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF). In second place: China, with just 9 percent. The NSF also notes that research in the United States leans heavily toward life sciences and medical fields.
2. Americans dominate in the Olympics. Someone has to get the benefit of all that scientific knowledge. Sure, not every tennis or golf champ is U.S. born, and it’s nearly impossible to compare an Argentinian soccer player like Lionel Messi with our homegrown stars like LeBron James. But we’ve been dominating the Olympics for years now, racking up more total medals (2,654, as of this past summer) and more gold medals than any country in both the summer and winter Olympics combined. That’s thanks in part to our extensive college sports programs, which most other countries don’t have. “It is possible for large numbers of excellent athletes to be supported completely and provided with good facilities and competition via scholarships,” says John Barrow, Ph.D., professor of mathematics at Cambridge University and author of Mathletics.
3. The rest of us are trying really hard to get in shape. The United States has more paying gym memberships than any other nation—more than 51 million, according to the International Health, Racquet, and Sports Club Association. That means around 16 percent of all Americans at the very least start the year intending to go to the gym regularly. And those numbers don’t even include the people who lift weights in their basement, go running or cycling during their lunch breaks, or play sports in recreational leagues. Keep at it, America—as more people start to live healthy, we’ll all benefit.
by Denny Watkins