Commenting on the report, Bernice Rumala, an assistant professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac University School of Medicine in North Haven, Conn., said: "Previous studies have focused specifically on low socioeconomic status populations and racial/ethnic minorities. However, this study has highlighted that there are larger contextual factors beyond socioeconomic status that are resulting in poorer health outcomes for everyone, not just the disadvantaged or racial/ethnic minorities."
A number of reasons account for the miserable statistics, the report authors said.
Among them: various lifestyle factors such as poor eating and lack of physical activity, disparities in health care, lack of health insurance, high rates of drug abuse, an unwillingness to fasten up while riding in vehicles, a propensity to use firearms and lags in education.
Even aspects of community development, such as the fact that many urban centers are based on automobile transportation, may play a role, said Dr. Ana Diez Roux, another report author and director of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
On the plus side, the panel also found that once Americans reach the age of 75, they live longer than their peers in other developed countries. Americans are also less likely to die of stroke and cancer, better able to control blood pressure and cholesterol and less likely to smoke.
Nevertheless, the findings and the challenges they highlight were daunting to the researchers.
"If we fail to act, life spans will continue to shorten and children will face shorter lives and greater rates of illness than those in other nations," Woolf said.
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