The United States spends considerably more money on medical care per capita ($5,274) than the United Kingdom ($2,164). However, whether greater financial expenditures translate into better health for a country’s citizens is uncertain.

James Banks, Ph.D., of University College London and Institute for Fiscal Studies, London, and colleagues compared data from the U.S. and England to assess the relative health of older individuals and how health varies by socioeconomic status in the two countries.

The researchers found that U.S. citizens in late middle age are much less healthy than their English counterparts for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, lung disease and cancer. Diabetes prevalence was twice as high in the U.S. (12.5 percent) than in England (6.1 percent) and hypertension was approximately 10 percentage points more common in the U.S.

Obesity rates were much higher in the U.S. and heavy drinking was more common in England. In both countries, disease prevalence was much higher among individuals of lower income and education, compared with those at higher income and education levels.

Differences in socioeconomic groups between the two countries were so great that those in the top education and income level in the U.S. had similar rates of diabetes and heart disease as those in the bottom education and income level in England.

“Although access to health care is important, differential access can only offer a partial explanation for our findings,” the authors write. “Health insurance cannot be the central reason for the better health outcomes in England because the top socioeconomic status (SES) tier of the U.S. population have close to universal access but their health outcomes are often worse than those of their English counterparts.”

MEDICA.de; Source: American Medical Association (AMA)