The English are healthier than the Americans: really?

TitleThe English are healthier than the Americans: really?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsCieza, A, Oberhauser, C, Bickenbach, J, Jones, RN, Üstün, TBedirhan, Kostanjsek, N, Morris, JN, Chatterji, S
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Start Page229
KeywordsCross-National, Health Conditions and Status, Healthcare, Methodology

Background: When comparing the health of two populations, it is not enough to compare the prevalence of chronic diseases. The objective of this study is therefore to propose a metric of health based on domains of functioning to determine whether the English are healthier than the Americans.Methods: We analysed representative samples aged 50 to 80 years from the 2008 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 10 349) for the US data, and wave 4 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (N = 9405) for English counterpart data. We first calculated the age-standardized disease prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, all heart diseases, stroke, lung disease, cancer and obesity. Second, we developed a metric of health using Rasch analyses and the questions and measured tests common to both surveys addressing domains of human functioning. Finally, we used a linear additive model to test whether the differences in health were due to being English or American.Results: The English have better health than the Americans when population health is assessed only by prevalence of selected chronic health conditions. The English health advantage disappears almost completely, however, when health is assessed with a metric that integrates information about functioning domains.Conclusions: It is possible to construct a metric of health, based on data directly collected from individuals, in which health is operationalized as domains of functioning. Its application has the potential to tackle one of the most intractable problems in international research on health, namely the comparability of health across countries.

Endnote Keywords

Health Care Use/functioning/health state/cross-cultural comparison/cross-cultural comparison/Rasch model/health metric/ELSA_/cross-national comparison

Endnote ID


Citation Key6479