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Middle-aged English people are healthier than their American counterparts

ple with lower incomes and educational achievement in both of the nations were more likely to report being ill than those with higher incomes and educational achievement. But, because of the differences between the two nations, those at the top of the education and income scale in the US reported rates of diabetes and heart disease that were similar to those at the bottom of the scale in England.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of the UCL Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, says:

"In the US and England there were remarkably similar socioeconomic differences in health: the less education and income people had, the worse their health. We cannot blame either bad lifestyle or inadequate medical care as the main culprits in these socioeconomic differences in health. We should look for explanation to the circumstances in which people live and work."

The study shows that the differences in health between the two nations are not fully explained by lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking, excess weight and poor exercise. Smoking behaviour is similar in the two nations, while excessive drinking of alcohol is more common in England. Obesity is more common in the US, and Americans get less exercise, according to the study. But researchers estimate that those factors together account for less than half of the differences. Nor are the differences accounted for by higher rates of black and Hispanic population in the US, who are groups known to have poorer health, since these are excluded from the study.

Researchers say that past differences in health risk factors may be one explanation for the disparities seen in the subjects covered by the study. Rising obesity has occurred in the UK only recently, with the rate increasing from seven per cent in 1980 to 23 per cent in 2003. Meanwhile, the prevalence of obesity in the US rose from 16 per cent to 31 per cent during the same period.

Professor James Banks, of the UCL Department of E
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Contact: Judith Moore
judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk
44-773-330-7596
University College London
2-May-2006


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