England healthier than U.S.: Credit socialized medicine?

British, England, flag, union jack, stock, 4x3
British, England, flag, union jack, stock, 4x3

(CBS) Americans love to poke fun at the English for having bad teeth and bland food. But when it comes to good health, Britons may have the last laugh.

Compared with Brits, Americans have higher rates of many chronic medical problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, a new study shows. What's more, obesity and high cholesterol are less common in England than in the U.S., according to the study of nearly 40,000 Americans and 70,000 Brits, published in the March issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Among young men, heart attacks are more common in the U.S. than in England, the study showed. And American women of all ages have higher blood pressure and more heart attacks and strokes than their counterparts in England.

How did British docs react to the news? The study's lead author relayed their blunt assessment.

"They were saying, 'The U.S. must be doing really bad because they're worse than us, and we're worse than the rest of the European countries,'"Dr. Melissa Martinson, a research associate at Princeton University, told HealthDay.


Martinson said it wasn't clear why the blokes across the pond are so much healthier than Yanks."Why health status differs so dramatically in these two countries, which share much in terms of history and culture, is an unresolved puzzle," she wrote in the study.

Ironically, the very socialized healthcare system many Americans deplore might be responsible for Brits' better health. Although the U.S. spends more on health-care and has more high-tech medicine than any other country, Americans see primary-care doctors less frequently than English people do, the BBC reported.

Health experts agree that one key to improving health in the U.S. will be eating more healthfully and reforming our couch potato ways. The Obama administration is pushing the better-lifestyle agenda with the First Lady's Let's Move campaign.

But bringing Americans' health in line with Britons'? That may be a long, difficult struggle.

Call it the American Revolution, Part Two?