NOVEMBER 01, 2007

It looks as if Europe has the United States beat when it comes to who is healthier. In the first study of its kind, researchers at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health found that adults who live in the United States are more prone to be diagnosed with costly chronic diseases, compared with their European peers. The report also said that chronic diseases add approximately $100 billion to $150 billion per year in US health care spending.

Data from 2004 on the prevalence and treatment of diseases among adults aged 50 and older in the United States and 10 European countries found that Americans were almost twice as likely as Europeans to be obese (33.1% vs 17.1%, respectively) and also were more prone to be current or former smokers (53% vs 43%, respectively). Furthermore, Americans had higher rates of several serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic lung disease, according to findings reported online in Health Affairs (October 2, 2007).

"We expected to see differences between prevalence in the United States and Europe, but the extent of the differences is surprising," commented lead author Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD. "It is possible that we spend more on health care because we are, indeed, less healthy. If the United States could bring its obesity rates more in line with Europe's, it could save $100 billion or more in health care costs."