Life Expectancy vs HALE
I recently read an ED OP in our local paper that was a reprint from a publication from a Minnesota paper. The writer was pointing out that while most EU countries were making positive progress to improve Life Expectancy, the US has been heading in the opposite direction for several years. The narrative stated that the CDC has placed part of the blame on drug overdoses and suicides. I did a bit of math on these areas and discovered that the increases in these areas has only had a minimal impact. The writer pointed out deficiencies in our health care system and noted increases in pregnancy mortality & heart disease, but again these numbers do not even come close to explaining away the problem.
My opinion is that the issue lies with our broken and extremely expensive healthcare system in combination with our inability (or unwillingness) to maintain our immune systems through regular exercise and moderation of caloric intake. Our healthcare system costs, on average, 2 ½ times that per capita average for EU countries. Yet, according to the World Health organization we only rank 31st in terms of quality of care. It is interesting that this is exactly the rank that the US has with respect to Life Expectancy, again 31st. You would think that since we spend so much on health care we should be getting the best? I think it important to not be fooled by Life Expectancy as a true measure of quality. The better measure is one termed HALE (Health Adjusted Life Expectancy). Following is taken from Very Well Health: “How Is Healthy Life Expectancy Calculated? This is a bit complicated and uses lots of different data sources for each country. In a nutshell, the World Health Organization takes a country’s data like mortality rates and health status information and crunches them to look at things like how long people are expected to live with about 135 health conditions. The calculation looks at the mortality rate for different health conditions and adjusts it for the duration or severity of the illnesses.”
What this measures is your expectation of a healthy life span, not just how long we can keep you alive! Again, we fall far behind the EU and in fact we fall to 35th overall. The difference is significant. Currently our Life expectancy from birth stands at 79.3, but our HALE stands at only 69.1. Keeping us alive those additional 10 years is expensive and they are not our best years.
You might be surprised to learn that the following countries have a better HALE than the US: The United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, Malta, Maldives, Costa Rica, Chile & Cuba. Our HALE is equal to that of China.