The United States obsesses over health to a degree never before seen in history. The citizens there “lead the world” in cutting smoking, curbing drinking and examining minutely every morsel of food allowed into their gullets.
Physical exercise has taken the place of Holy Communion as the nation’s most observed religious rite. So why are Americans mediocre also-rans in the longevity sweepstakes?
The dominant culture’s take, as seen in this typical story about recent global longevity rankings, is political rather than medical. Americans are dying young because the country hasn’t yet joined the civilized nations in imposing socialized medicine upon its inhabitants. Perhaps so but it begs the glaring question of why the United States, which spends more per capita on health care than any affluent, industrialized country, ranks just above Mexico in longevity.
One factor, so say the experts, is that the infant mortality in the United States is surprisingly high. Another factor, again according to the experts, is that racial disparities between the black and white populations lower the overall longevity rate, black males living shorter lives than Nicaraguans and Moroccans. The experts, of course, point their finger at obesity, portly Americans being the fattest people on the globe. These three theories, as well as the lack of universal health coverage, have nothing to do with tobacco yet one of these experts says this:
Policymakers also should focus on ways to reduce cancer, heart disease and lung disease, said Murray. He advocates stepped-up efforts to reduce tobacco use, control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
Dr. Christopher Murray is the head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and his prescription to promote higher longevity for Americans appears to have been written by the pharmaceutical industry.
What this story neglects to report, but which we are pleased to add, is that the countries ranking at the top of the longevity list are those that have much higher smoking rates than that of the United States. Andorra, a tiny country between France and Spain, best known for its lucrative cigarette smuggling enterprises, is the winner followed by Japan, where the smoking rate for men is among the highest in the world. Western European nations all have higher smoking rates than America. It would be mighty peculiar for an “expert” like Murray to harp on smoking when smoking, by the health experts own analysis, cannot be a factor in America’s shorter life span until one accepts that Murray and too many of his cohorts are not concerned with health but are merely shills for multi-national drug companies.