The finding that even American youths are less healthy than English youths came as something of a surprise, Martinson said. They expected to find that middle-aged and older Americans were in poorer health than those of a similar age in England because of the higher rates of obesity in the United States, higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and other lifestyle and behavioral factors.
But even among kids, some of the differences were stark. For example, 12 percent of American girls and 11 percent of boys aged 4 to 11 are obese, compared to 7 percent in England. More than 17 percent of U.S. boys and girls aged 12 to 19 have asthma, compared to about 8 percent of English youths of that age.
For all age groups over age 4, about 50.5 percent of people in England have a normal weight, compared to only 41 percent of Americans; about 18 percent of people in England are obese, compared to 29 percent of Americans.
More than 13 percent of Americans of all ages have asthma, compared to 6.5 percent of England's residents, the study found.
Nearly 22 percent of Americans aged 12 and up have high cholesterol, compared to 16 percent of their peers in England, the researchers reported in the March 9 online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The worse health comes in spite of consuming far more health-care dollars than other countries, according to Mauricio Avendano, a research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial.
Americans make up just 5 percent of the world's population, yet they represent more than half of every medical dollar spent on the planet, Avendano said.
And all that money isn't doing them as much good as one might think it would. American life expectancy is near the bottom of rankings that include European nations, he explained.
It's especially notab
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