Monday, May 15, 2006

Stress and health

This interesting Slate article looks at a study which compared similar English males with American males. All in all, the English males were healthier, even after taking income, fatness, smoking, drinking, etc. into account. A surprising result given how much more the US spends on healthcare and the UK.

The study's author has also looked at the impact stress/socio-economic status has on health. Basically, if you are in a job with a lot of responsibility but no control, you are less likely to be healthy than otherwise. I'm not sure if Americans are more stressed than Englishmen, the employment rate in the US is better, the country as a whole is richer, and the UK has a fairly dynamic capitalist economy (unlike, say, France).

One thing not mentioned in the article was whether Americans were less healthy than the British because they were less dead. Advances in medical care have basically moved people from being dead to being alive but unwell, which is why all arguments that better health reduces medical costs are bogus (they may delay some medical costs, but we all need to go sometime and we usually do it kicking, screaming, and running up expensive medical bills). Maybe the right comparison isn't between unhealthy Americans and less unhealthy Englishmen, it's between unhealthy Americans and dead Englishmen.


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