Why Do Canadians Outlive Americans?

Life expectancy for Canadians is a bit over two years longer than for Americans, and leftists like to point to this as evidence of the superiority Canada's single-payer health care system. I came across a paper comparing death rates of Canadians and Americans from different causes, which may shed some light on the issue. Key points:

  • Among whites, virtually all of the excess deaths came from circulatory diseases.
  • The rate of death from cancer for whites is lower in the US than in Canada. This may be due to the fact that Canadians smoked more than Americans until recently.
  • Rates of deaths among non-whites are higher in the US than in Canada for all causes except suicide, but this is arguably not a meaningful comparison due to the fact that most non-whites in Canada are Asian, while most non-whites in the US are black or Latino.
  • Canadians with hypertension are less likely to receive treatment, or even to be aware of their condition, than Americans.
  • The authors argue point to greater prevalence of obesity in the US (28% of men and 34% of women) than in Canada (13% and 11%) as a likely contributor to the greater rate of death from circulatory diseases among Americans. (Since obesity rates are higher among blacks and Latinos than among whites, these figures probably overstate the difference in obesity rates among white Americans and Canadians.)

I've long suspected that demographic and lifestyle factors, and not our health care system, are the primary reasons for Americans' relatively low life expectancies, and this analysis seems to lend some support to that hypothesis. A good next step, if it hasn't already been done, would be to compare American and Canadian death rates after controlling for obesity, smoking, and race.

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