Why Do Americans Die Sooner?

by Bill Brenner on January 11, 2013

CNN reports that despite spending more per person on healthcare than any other country, Americans are getting sicker and dying younger than our international peers.

Why is this? Because Americans are too high strung and overworked. You could say the stress is killing us.

Mood music, ironically sung by a couple of Brits:


Here’s the takeaway from CNN:

Data from 2007 show Americans’ life expectancy is 3.7 years shorter for men and 5.2 years shorter for women than in the leading nations — Switzerland for men and Japan for women.

As of 2011, 27 countries had higher life expectancies at birth than the United States.

“The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries,” the report states, “but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”

I’ve had conversations about this with friends from Europe, and they always go on about how crazy we Americans are. We respond to job stress by putting in even more hours, trying to keep up with the ever-growing demands of our corporate masters. Some of us now work holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. We seek solace from the stress in all the things that are bad for us: Overeating, drinking, pills.

When Erin and I got married, we spent our honeymoon traveling around Ireland. The slower pace of life floored us. They took the first Monday of every month off for a “bank holiday.” In restaurants, people weren’t in a rush to put their orders in. Waitresses would talk for several minutes with patrons before taking down their orders. Accustomed to faster service, Erin and I didn’t like that much. We are, after all, Americans. Rushing ourselves and others is in the blood.

At the time, I was working at least 60 hours a week in a job that paid $28,000 a year. I was a ball of tension, and I comforted myself with food binges. I was 280 pounds on that trip.

I still put a lot into my work today, but it’s different because I love what I do. I’ve also spent a lot of time building a relationship with God, taking a mindfulness class heavy on meditation techniques, and playing guitar. I’ve slowly learned to enjoy life and not rush through it to the next pressure. But I still have a long, long way to go.

I’m not a unique case. Americans put ridiculous amounts of pressure on themselves over trivial things.

To be fair, I know a lot of Europeans who have bad habits and bad health. Americans are simply destroying themselves a little bit faster.

But I also have a lot of American friends who have fought back. One friend is a passionate weight lifter. Another friend does jujitsu. Many of them are now doing yoga. They’ve made radical and necessary changes to their diets. This gives me hope.

We may be dying faster, but in never giving up and trying to better ourselves, we have a pretty good shot at learning to live longer.

Man under job stress

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joseph Guarino January 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

You are right on target on this being a key element in our lacking quality of life and rapid march toward our own untimely end. Other societies get the work life balance issue and have laws and social systems to support the health and well being of their citizens but we are noticeably lagging in this regard. Additionally, I might add that we have horrible diets, don’t exercise and surround ourselves with supernumerary toxins. We must change as a society and the time is nigh.

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