Statistics: Report Card On The Nation's Health
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | October 7, 2003

Mark Twain popularized the Benjamin Disraeli observation: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." But sometimes statistics are like a slap in the face, such as those in the latest Annual Report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Americans are living longer than we ever have, but whether examining disease or healthcare expenditures, the health of the nation doesn't seem to be any better.

Here are the highlights from the Annual Report published in October 20031. First, the good news:

  • Life expectancy in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 77.2 years in 2001. This represents an increase of nearly 2 years since 1990. Women still hold the edge over men--life expectancy for women is 79.8 years and the life expectancy for men is 74.4 years.
  • The difference in life expectancy between blacks and whites narrowed from about 7 years in 1990 to 5.5 years in 2001.
  • Infant mortality reached a record low in 2001 of 6.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 6.9 in 2000.
While these statistics are good news, the gains in life expectancy are opposed by increases in obesity, diabetes, and healthcare expenditures. Consider the following:

  • The U.S. still ranks low in life expectancy when compared with the rest of the world. Women's life expectancy ranks 21st, while men's life expectancy ranks 24th.
  • We are getting fatter as a nation: 65% of adults ages 20 to 74 were overweight or obese in 1999-2000.
  • The rate of diabetes continues to rise with 6.5% of American adults diagnosed with diabetes in 2002, compared with 5.1% in 1997. Diabetes was the fifth leading cause of death among women and sixth among men in 2001.
  • The U.S. continues to spend more on health than any other industrialized country. The total cost in 2001 for healthcare in the U.S. showed an 8.7% increase from the previous year, to $1.4 trillion. That's $1,400,000,000,000--a number so big it's hard to write without losing track of the commas and zeroes.
  • Prescription drug prices continued to rise--a 16% increase in 2001.
The sum total of this Annual Report means that you're probably going to live longer, but it's going to come at a price:

  • You can invest the time and money in attaining health by exercising regularly, eating the right food, eating less food to maintain an ideal body weight, and taking dietary supplements such as a multivitamin-multimineral and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Or you can keep your present lifestyle and invest time and money in hospital visits, cardiac rehabilitation, and prescription medications.
Either way, you're going to pay, but you have a choice.

The decision you make dictates the quality of life you're going to have. Better Life Unlimited exists to help you prevent diseases rather than treat them after they occur.

Reference:

  1. Health, U.S., 2003 With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. 471 pp. (PHS) 2003-1232. Available for viewing online at www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus.htm.
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