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United States losing ground to other countries in health outcomes

Drug use disorders 3.5%
Diabetes 3.2%
Osteoarthritis 2.7%
Asthma 2.5%

Overall disease burden in the United States is now dominated by conditions that are more disabling than fatal. The burdens from ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, and preterm birth complications are all falling, while the burdens from depression, low back and neck pain, and diabetes are rising.

In 2010, the top 10 causes of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which measure health loss, were:

Ischemic heart disease 9.6%
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 4.7%
Low back pain 3.9%
Lung cancer 3.7%
Major depressive disorder 3.7%
Other musculoskeletal disorders 3.5%
Stroke 3.2%
Diabetes 3.1%
Road injury 2.8%
Drug use disorders 2.6%

The United States has made significant health improvements over the past two decades, including:

  • Lower disease burden rates since 1990 of nearly all childhood diseases and conditions, including a dramatic reduction in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Lower mortality rates for people at every age since 1990.
  • Significant reductions in death and disability from HIV/AIDS.

But other countries are improving at a faster rate. As a result, among its 34 economic peer countries in Europe, Asia, and North America, the US fell in the rankings between 1990 and 2010 on nearly every major health measure.

  • The US rank for the age-standardized death rate fell from 18th to 27th.
  • The life expectancy at birth rank fell from 20th to 27th.
  • The healthy life expectancy (HALE) rank fell from 14th to 26th.

What is making the US less healthy than its peers? The researchers point to poor diet and inadequate physical activity as two of the driving forces. The US has a greater associated disease burden from diet

Contact: Rhonda Stewart
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

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