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Study finds middle-aged Americans not as healthy as English counterparts

White middle-aged Americans are not as healthy as their English counterparts, and in both countries lower income and education levels are associated with poorer health, according to a new comparison of key American and English health surveys. The healthiest Americans in the study--those in the highest income and education levels--had rates of diabetes and heart disease similar to the least healthy in England--those in the lowest income and education levels there. The research was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and British government agencies.

James Smith, Ph.D., of the RAND Corporation, Zoe Oldfield, M.Sc., of the University of London, and Sir Michael Marmot, M.D., and James Banks, Ph.D., both of University College, London, reported the comparison in the May 3, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This comparison raises some important questions about the relationship among health, education and income in both countries," says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of NIA. "As many nations try to address the challenges of population aging, it will be critical to know why these differences in health status appear."

Smith and colleagues chose comparable representative samples of people ages 55 to 64 from two large, national health surveys--4,386 from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study and 3,681 from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Each sample was divided into three socioeconomic groups based on education and income. Both samples were limited to non-Hispanic white populations, allowing the researchers to control for special issues in different racial/ethnic communities in both countries.

"This study challenges the theory that the greater heterogeneity of the U.S. population is the major reason the United States is behind other industrialized nations in some important health measures," says
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Contact: Karin Kolsky
301-496-1752
NIH/National Institute on Aging
2-May-2006


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