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Saturday, April 28, 2012

U.S. Leads Rich Countries in Mortality Rate for 10-24 Year Olds

In a depressing example of poor health outcomes in the United States, The Economist (via The Incidental Economist) shows that for 10-24 year olds, the mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 population) is considerably worse in the U.S. than in comparable rich countries (24 other OECD members plus Cyprus, Malta, and Singapore).

At about 59 deaths per 100,000, the U.S. rate was double that of South Korea, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and the Netherlands, and almost triple the rate of Singapore. As the graph below shows, the U.S. has the highest level of deaths from traffic accidents (though not much higher than Portugal, New Zealand, or Greece). However, as the story points out, the U.S. has by far the highest rate of deaths in this age group due to violence: 8.9 per 100,000, which appears from the graph to be about three times the rate for second-place Israel. The story notes that the violent death rate in Britain is only 1/18th that of the U.S. for this age group.

The U.S. is further back on the suicide rate, where New Zealand is worst at about 12 per 100,000, followed by Finland at approximately 11, and Japan and Ireland about 10.

For "other" causes of death (disease plus non-auto accidents; thanks to commenter Marc Brown at The Incidental Economist for clarification of this point), Portugal narrowly leads the United States.

What does this mean for policy? Certainly automobile use is not going to change much any time soon, absent huge increases in gas prices and better mass transit and high-speed rail. Of course, as Thomas Friedman has advocated, the U.S. could force the price of gas up by raising the gasoline tax by $1-2 per gallon, but no one in a position to make this even possible advocates it. America's gun policies, similarly, will not change any time soon. According to a survey by Hepburn et al. (2006), Americans currently own somewhere between 260 to 305 million firearms. If the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance coverage will increase, perhaps slightly lowering mortality rates for some diseases.

In the near term, then, it appears unlikely that the mortality rate will change very much. Sorry that there's nothing less depressing to report. I'd be interested to hear your views on these issues, since obviously I have just scratched the surface here.


  1. The USA (people) have a disrespect for others, it shows in the language they choose.
    It expands to violence.

    Goes back to "give them an inch and eventually they'll want that Mile".

    they believe they "only want to be free", but once the rules get broken, they'll not find an end...never.

  2. Americans are great people but when you throw at them cheap guns left and right and let the banks and insurance companies rip them off then what do you expect them to do ,I hope they wise up soon and live up to their standers .