More on the U.K., Life Expectancy, and Cancer

|

Michael's post below on the U.K.'s low cancer survival rate provides some perspective for a story in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago which was nearly giddy in pointing out how the U.S. has "fallen behind" much of the world in life expectancy due to obesity, a lack of socialized health care, and our slow adoption of various other paternalistic government programs aimed at limiting risk and influencing lifestyle.

On my personal blog, I put up a long post outlining a number of reasons why life expectancy is a poor measure of a country's overall health, and why the U.S.'s low ranking is probably misleading.

Advertisement

NEXT: United Against Liberty

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Uh oh, Radley–joe went ballistic on the other thread, and here you are providing more information that he’ll have to ignore and deny…

  2. I remember reading somewhere that indoor cats live longer, but are much less happy.

  3. This thread needs joe, with his hands over his ears, saying “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA.”

  4. How do you test a cat’s happiness?

    Oooo see, its licking its ass faster. That’s a 7 on the happy cat scale.

  5. Oh damn, here we go again.

  6. The big problem is not that life expectancy is a bad way to measure health.

    The major problem is that health and health care have little to do with each other.

    Say you stop trying to cure cancer. Nothing, no chemo, no radiation, no surgery. Would that make the “average health” of the population worse? No, it wouldn’t. There would be more premature deaths, but little effect on the health of the living.

    Even the number of premature deaths would be too small to seriously impact life expectancy. I remember it not being more than a couple of months.

    Life expectancy measures what 60-year-olds ate 30 years ago. Americans, in general, ate crap.

  7. Life expectancy measures what 60-year-olds ate 30 years ago.

    And smoked, and did without sunscreen, or without a condom.

  8. “Long life” is so over-rated. Get back to me when a 90-year-old can live and feel like a 30-year-old. Until then, the “don’t smoke, don’t eat red meat” crowd can piss off, because I’m not going to live like a monk just to add a couple crappy years at the end.

  9. Until then, the “don’t smoke, don’t eat red meat” crowd can piss off, because I’m not going to live like a monk just to add a couple crappy years at the end.

    Which reminds me, is smoking illegal in Cuba? Afterall, the healthcare dollars they must be spending on free care for smokers…

  10. Rhyun,

    How ’bout if a 90 year old man can feel and live like a 55 year old man? 65?

    I get your point, and I don’t live like a monk, but improvement in the quality of life is really possible, not just adding a couple of crappy years.

  11. Your last point is really the kicker, Mr. Balko.

    Having better health care is actually an incentive to live more dangerously, no different than air bags and seat belts are incentives to drive more recklessly. Both are goods that we enjoy, and things like healthcare and seatbelts lower the cost of enjoying those goods. So trying to measure life expectancy without taking into account the fact that people also enjoy, well, obesity, is to completely miss the point, as you note. It’s simply a bad measure of health care success and results.

  12. Radley’s post points out a few things I’ve often thought of when these “life expectancy” lists come out.

    First, we are 41st in the world, but only 5.6 years separates us from Numero Uno?

    Secondly, Cuba is always given a glowing shout-out in each one of these sorts of articles, apparently to rub our faces in it just a little bit more. But do they seriously believe a significant number of people are willing to live under Castro’s boot if it meant x more months of life? (Well, I guess some do)

    Lastly… Andorra, Guam, Cayman Islands… I didn’t look, but was Vatican City up there? How about that island Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on? (OK, bad example)

  13. It is indeed sad how so many spend so much time looking for justifications for turning the rest of our lives over to bureaucrats and politicians.

    As they don’t take the trouble to see the big picture of how the expense of government spending impoverishes most of us, especially the poor, they see no end of benefit from ever more government.

  14. Typo/mistake near the end of your piece:

    you mention the extra 6 months in the nursing home – shouldn’t that be an extra 6 years?

  15. Very good points. Simply put, there are some lifestyle choices for which healthcare cannot provide a remedy, no matter how good that care is.

    “Secondly, Cuba is always given a glowing shout-out in each one of these sorts of articles,”

    None of that would matter if people weren’t gullible enough to fall for that bullshit.

  16. Quality of life is life.

    Ask yourself whether you would want to live a full happy life of 60 years, or a live 100 years with a life equivalent to the conditions in a POW camp?

  17. That life expectancy is not a good measure of our well-being should be self-evident, but apparently there are many who don’t get it. Radley did a good job showing how clueless they are.

  18. Cuba is always given a glowing shout-out in each one of these sorts of articles, apparently to rub our faces in it just a little bit more.

    I would like someone to tell me just how, exactly, do you extract scientifically sound data from Cuba (or any other country where the dictator’s word = truth)?

  19. For all the whining libertarians do about Evil Nasty Government and its involvement in health, would you at least admit that the present “free market” set-up we have isn’t a bowl of cherries, either?

    The ability of the health insurers to a) deny insurance retroactively, b) decide to suddenly not cover something (like pregnancy 2 weeks before the woman is due to give birth), c) the policy of arguing over every single payment—THIS is what libertarians want to set up and say:” oh, but this is a great system and government by definition would have to be worse!”

    Prove it. Stop being knee-jerk idiots and PROVE IT. Remember, even Hayek said that government had a role in providing health services for its population.

  20. “government by definition would have to be worse!”

    “Prove it. Stop being knee-jerk idiots and PROVE IT.”

    All we have to do to prove it is to point at the example of socialized medicine in other countries with their long waiting lists and lower research and development than in the US.

  21. “As they don’t take the trouble to see the big picture of how the expense of government spending impoverishes most of us, especially the poor, they see no end of benefit from ever more government.”

    The high taxes in countries with socialized medicine are largely responsible for the chronically high unemployment rates of around 10%. So much money is drained from the private sector.

  22. “First, we are 41st in the world, but only 5.6 years separates us from Numero Uno?”

    And much of that 5.6 years disappear when you correct for murders. The US has a high murder rate compared to other countries.

  23. Re: Grumpy’s “prove it.”

    Rattlesnake doesn’t understand your challenge.

  24. “…would you at least admit that the present “free market” set-up we have isn’t a bowl of cherries, either?”

    I would say many (most?) would agree that our system isn’t a bowl of cherries, though some may contend that our current set-up ain’t exactly “free market” either in the truest sense. Then there’s that understandable and inherant mistrust of handing over such a significant chunk of the economy under the government’s watch.

    In terms of general discorse the world over, our system is held up for criticism all the time. Nothing new there. But what gets tiring is the notion – implied or otherwise – that government-run systems are near or at utopias. The worst offenders are those who try to convince others that Cuba’s “top notch” medical care is actually available to those not in cushy Party posts, a tourist, a political guest or a documentarian film crew.

  25. Prove it. Stop being knee-jerk idiots and PROVE IT. Remember, even Hayek said that government had a role in providing health services for its population.

    You have this backward. It is your job to prove to me to go along with some kind of state enforced healthcare scheme.

    A private system is participatory and can change quickly based on needs while a state system is compulsory and is slow to change. This is evident in almost every example one can think of. It is up to others to prove to me that somehow healthcare is an exception to the rule.

  26. “You have this backward. It is your job to prove to me to go along with some kind of state enforced healthcare scheme.”

    Good point, Pain. It is up to them to prove that socialized medicine is a better system before we bring it here.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.