Thursday, November 21, 2013

Picture of the Day: Life Expectancy

Form the OECD via the Wall Street Journal:

The US is a year and a half below the OECD average.  Given how much we spend per-capita on health care, this is surprising, but when you thing about our private system on top of an ever increasing unequal distribution of income, perhaps not.  Plus, we are fat and eat a lot of bad food.

Anyway, the really shocking aspect of this is the abysmal situation in South Africa - 13 years below even India.  


Fred Thompson said...

People die for other reasons than health. For example, people die because of car accidents and violent crime. Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to first.

Finding ways to reduce gun deaths would go a long way toward correcting this anomaly .

Also, if you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. From that standpoint the US looks pretty good.

Mary Sue said...

Plus, we are fat and eat a lot of bad food.

*flies in dressed as the Peer Reviewed Research Fairy* Noooot truuuuuuuuue! [1,2,3, and commentary on the social cost of blaming fat people 4.]

Patrick Emerson said...

Mary Sue,

That was intended as comedy. But thanks for pointing that out.


Yes, this is not a great measure of health care outcomes at all but could be another potential symptom of income inequality. The South Africa stat almost certainly is.

But think of Brazil - a lot less wealthy, more violent, about the same amount of guns, more corrupt and more unequal with an awful but at least reasonably functional public health system. And their life expectancy trails ours but only 5 years.

See, Mary Sue, I am all about the anecdote! Data be danged... (<- that is comedy too)

BJCefola said...

Fred, expected lifespan at age 65 filters out a lot of that stuff. It also substantially removes the uninsured as most seniors get Medicare. Out of 34 countries the US is in the bottom half for men and the bottom third for women.

Measuring outcomes from the point of intervention is essentially a survival rate, that's a deeply flawed indicator of quality.

Fred Thompson said...

BJ, True enough, although looking at information from the Human Mortality Database, US life expectancy at age 65 is right in the middle and the death rate from trauma remains elevated compared to the other 37 countries in the data base as does deaths from infectious diseases, which is mildly surprising. However, it's relative ranking moves every five years, so that at 75, the US is tied for first with Japan and Canada and at 80 moves into first place, 10% greater than number 2.

Public heath and sanitation measures, adequate nutrition, clean water, and access to antibiotics are the proximate causes of increased life expectancy. Other medical interventions are of secondary significance. But if they weigh more heavily at any time, they probably do so with respect to our seniors.

Patrick Emerson said...

I can see that I have been remiss in my lack of content lo these many months - thanks for the great comments and lively debate. So nice to have a blog devoid of trolls and full of intelligent, thoughtful folks.