America is far from being the healthiest country

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“Being American is bad for your health,” said Robert Samuelson. That’s the sobering conclusion of an exhaustive new report comparing our health with that of people in 16 other advanced countries. We rank at or near the bottom, from life expectancy at birth to frequency of death before age 50, and it’s only partly the fault of our health-care system. The freedom and autonomy that are intrinsic to our culture lead us to make choices that are distinctly unhealthy—and even fatal. Among males under 50, there are comparatively “more homicides (often gun-related), car accidents (often alcohol-related), and other accidents (often drug-related).”

Bad diets—don’t tell me what to eat!—fuel high rates of diabetes and heart disease. American girls ages 15 to 19 get pregnant at 3.5 times the average rate of other advanced countries, producing children doomed to poverty and poor health care. Even the well-to-do suffer from stress-related disease that’s a byproduct of the nation’s relentlessly competitive spirit. Blinded by optimism, Americans assume we’re healthier than everyone in the world, “We think we’re No. 1, even if we aren’t.”