Men in U.S. are sicker, die earlier than in other developed countries

On nearly every health care measure, low income American men fared the worst

A study of 11 developed nations found mental health needs, chronic medical conditions and avoidable deaths were highest among American men.

For its study, the Commonwealth Fund used data from its 2020 International Health Policy Survey and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to compare health care accessibility, affordability and health status for adult men.

The data came from samples of noninstitutionalized adults ages 18 and older in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Highlights from the study include:

  • Rates of avoidable deaths, chronic conditions and mental health needs for U.S. men are among the highest in the analysis.
  • Men in Canada, the United States and Sweden are the least likely to have a regular doctor and have among the highest rates of emergency department use for conditions that could have been treated in a doctor’s office.
  • Men in the U.S. and Switzerland skip needed care because of costs and incur medical bills at the highest rates.
  • In the U.S., men with lower income or frequent financial stress are less likely to get preventive care, more likely to have problems affording their care, and more likely to have physical and mental health conditions.
  • Men in the United States have the lowest rate of prostate cancer–related deaths.

American men had the highest rate of deaths from avoidable causes — more than 100 deaths per 100,000 than the No. 2 nation, the United Kingdom. High rates of avoidable deaths, or deaths before age 75 that occur from preventable conditions, “often indicate shortcomings in public health and care delivery systems,” the authors wrote.

Credit: The Commonwealth Fund

Credit: The Commonwealth Fund

“While behavioral and cultural norms may have a lot to do with the care-seeking habits of American men, the fact remains that the United States is the only high-income country that does not ensure all its residents have access to affordable health care,” the authors wrote. “Roughly 16 million U.S. men are without health insurance, and affordability is the reason that people most often cite for why they do not enroll in a health plan.”

There is one bright spot for American men — they had the lowest rate of prostate cancer–related deaths.

“The relatively lower U.S. prostate cancer death rate likely reflects the quality of cancer care in the U.S., which features extensive screening as well as a variety of advanced treatments and technologies,” the authors wrote. “U.S. cancer death rates have dropped significantly over the past three decades, largely a result because of better screening for the disease.”

The authors concluded that despite cancer outcomes, the United States “compares poorly to most other high-income nations when it comes to receipt of preventive care and affordability of care.” In addition, their results showed that on nearly every health care measure, low income American men fared the worst.

“As a result, American men, particularly those with lower incomes and financial stress, have the poorest health outcomes,” they wrote.

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