Sunday, May 04, 2008

Health News Reported Half-Empty

A recent Harvard study found that "Average life expectancy in the United States has increased steadily in the past few decades, rising by more than 7 y for men and more than 6 y for women between 1960 and 2000." Between 1983 and 1999, "Men nationally saw life expectancy rise 3.1 years to 74.1 years. . .[and] Women nationally saw life expectancy rise by 1.28 years . . . to about 79.6 years." The study also reported that, during that same period, "life expectancy declined significantly in 11 counties for men (by 1.3 y) and in 180 counties for women (by 1.3 y)." The authors blamed localized declines in general on "increased mortality from lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and a range of other noncommunicable diseases" compounded by--among men--"[h]igher HIV/AIDS and homicide deaths."

So what's the New York Times lede?: "Gap in Life Expectancy Widens for the Nation". Which is at least accurate, if biased; again, life expectancy for all income levels rose. But the Times downplays that fact in a follow-up story:
Throughout the 20th century, it was an American birthright that each generation would live longer than the last. Year after year, almost without exception, the anticipated life span of the average American rose inexorably, to 78 years in 2005 from 61 years in 1933, when comprehensive data first became available.

But new research shows that those reassuring nationwide gains mask a darker and more complex reality. A pair of reports out this month affirm that the rising tide of American health is not lifting all boats, and that there are widening gaps in life expectancy based on the interwoven variables of income, race, sex, education and geography.
Further, the Times fingered lack of health insurance and the asserted unavailability of high-quality medical care among the poor. But the declines were primarily regional, and "weren't strongly associated with race or income."

Rather, the study pointed elsewhere:
Researchers said they don't think poor access to health care can be blamed for all of the declines in life expectancy. "Even if everyone were insured, we'd still be seeing most of the pattern that we're seeing here," [study co-author] Dr. Murray said.
Indeed, the study blamed smoking and obesity, i.e., un-constrained individual choice--according to the Washington Post, "About half of all deaths in the United States are attributable to a small number of "modifiable" behaviors and exposures, such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise." Then there's criminal homicide, and death from HIV/AIDS (declining for a decade, the authors admit). So most factors retarding longevity are independent of health care or insurance.

Still, the Times is a model of objectivity compared with the leftist AmericaBlog. There, political consultant Joe Sudbay called the study's results "[a]nother proud legacy of the Bush administration." One problem: the study's data covered "every year between 1961 and 1999." That can't be Bush's fault, except among deranged Democrats viewing politics via a "flux capacitor".

(via EconLog)


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, love that. I guess if people stopped smoking or over-drinking they might not die at all, eh?

Carl said...

Exactly. Plainly, you have excellent prospects as a Democrat political consultant.

OBloodyHell said...

> ...except among deranged Democrats viewing politics via a "flux capacitor"

Sorry, Carl -- that would be the wrong type of "flux" it's measuring. The hyperlink deals with the correct type. ;o)

> I guess if people stopped smoking or over-drinking they might not die at all, eh?

No, only the White Republicans... they'd still be keeping the immortality drugs all for their eeeeeevil, wicked selves.

HEY! They don't call it the "Spectre" of AIDs for nothing!! Wright has been speaking Revealed Democratic Truth, donchaknow?