Men living in the United States are far sicker than men in similarly wealthy countries, a new report has found. Among other things, American men are more likely to die from preventable causes than those living in 10 other countries, including Canada, Australia, and the UK. Financially struggling men also tended to be worse off in the U.S. than elsewhere.
The new report is the latest in a series by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organisation focused on health care reform. These reports analyse publicly available data on health outcomes as well as surveys conducted by the organisation. And they typically compare the U.S. to its high-income peer countries, with the latest comparisons including Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, the UK, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Sweden.
Last year, they ranked the U.S. dead last across most health care metrics, including in life expectancy past age 60. In April, another comparison report found that American women of reproductive age were the most likely to die from preventable causes, including during or soon after pregnancy, and they were also the most likely to have trouble paying their medical bills or to avoid seeing doctors over healthcare costs. Unfortunately, the picture isn’t looking any rosier for American men.
According to the report, U.S. men are the most likely to develop serious, life-threatening health problems and to die early from preventable causes like heart disease. Unsurprisingly, they were also the most likely to express dissatisfaction with their health care. These gaps were even larger for American men with “income insecurity,” who were also more at risk of not being able to pay for their health care and to avoid doctors than men with similar financial situations living elsewhere.
About the only category where American men are faring better than many of their peers was with prostate cancer. The mortality rate of prostate cancer was actually lower in the U.S. than in other nations. But aside from that, men in the U.S. have got the short end of the health stick, the report authors say, despite the country actually having more resources than others.
One clear factor for this disparity is that the U.S. remains the only wealthy country to not guarantee universal health care coverage to its residents, the authors note. Many of the best-performing countries have also established some form of a single-payer system, where costs are primarily covered by the government, which is in turn funded by taxes.
“This study makes clear that U.S. men are sicker, more stressed, and dying at much higher rates compared to men in other countries,” said Munira Z. Gunja, lead report author and senior researcher for the Commonwealth Fund’s International Program in Health Policy and Practice Innovation, in a statement. “This is largely because so many of them can’t afford the care they need. The United States is the world’s wealthiest democracy, yet its failure to provide universal health care leaves 16 million men uninsured and far more with high out-of-pocket costs.”
A single-payer system in the U.S., many studies have suggested, would not only provide universal health coverage to Americans but also likely lower health care costs, thanks to fewer administrative resources needed to manage it and greater bargaining power in negotiating with the medical and pharmaceutical industry. The Commonwealth Fund does note that there is much variation in how these systems operate in terms of the government’s role (only some, like the UK, are fully nationalized, with doctors being public employees), and even in single-payer countries, there is still some room for private health insurance.