Bloomberg: A sick America can’t compete with China
If, as the old saying goes, health equals wealth, then the economic future of the United States looks bleak.
The United States has traditionally enjoyed the highest levels of public health in the world.
In the colonial era, the average American man was between two and three inches taller than his European counterpart, according to military records, a fact that was impressive to historical demographers who believe that human height is directly proportional to longevity, cognitive development, and ability to work.
Today America’s health advantage has turned into a deficit.
The average American is shorter than his northern European counterpart, and that difference widens over time.
Six out of ten Americans suffer from one chronic disease, and four out of ten suffer from two chronic diseases.
This reality is what prompted the American writer William Glaston to say in an article published in the Wall Street Journal that “America is a sick society in the literal sense of the word.”
In an analysis by Bloomberg News, American writer Adrian Goldberg said that declining health in America has become a growing economic problem.
The rate of participation of Americans in the labor force decreased to 62.4%, and the number of vacant jobs reached 11 million compared to only 5.7 million Americans looking for jobs, according to the American Chamber of Commerce, while about 2.8 million people have disappeared from the American labor force since February 2020.
On the other hand, employers in the United States complain about the large number of workers absenteeism and job pressures, in addition to their inability to find the workers required to fill the jobs they have.
At the same time, health care expenditures are rising.
But with tensions escalating with both Russia and China, the health shortage in the United States is also becoming a national security problem.
A survey conducted by the US Department of Defense in 2020 revealed that more than three-quarters of American youth between the ages of 18 and 24 aren’t medically fit for military service, with most of them suffering from obesity.
Goldberg, author of “The Aristocracy of Talent: How Merit Made the Modern World,” says that the decline in life expectancy in the United States is the clearest evidence of the deteriorating health of American society as a whole.
In 2014, the average life expectancy in the United States declined to 76.1 years, which is the lowest number since 1996.
In contrast, the average life expectancy of Germans increased by 4.3 years compared to Americans in 2021, compared to 2.5 years in 2018.
The average life expectancy of French people increased by 6 years compared to Americans in 2021, compared to 4 years only in 2018.
The United States also suffers from one of the highest rates of obesity in the developed world, as the percentage of obesity among Americans increased from 15% in 1980 to 30.5% in 2000 and then to 41.9% in 2020.
This percentage is ten times the rate in Japan and significantly more than the rate in China.
Obesity is associated with many health problems, including heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, lifestyle-related cancer and diabetes, which affect about 13% of the population in the United States and cost American employers about $90 billion annually.
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic came to provide additional evidence of the collapse of American supremacy in the field of health, as the death rate from disease in the United States remained higher than in most other developed countries.
In the United States, the rate was 339 deaths per 100,000 Americans, compared to 254 deaths per 100,000 in France, 201 per 100,000 in Germany, and 134 deaths per 100,000 in Canada, due to the poor basic health care system in the United States.
The pandemic led to a sharp decline in the labor force participation rate in the United States, a decline from which the country has not recovered despite the pandemic receding.
It also led to a longer-term legacy known as the extended Covid problem, which doctors are still trying to understand, and affects people with health problems such as feeling tired, short of breath and disorientation.
The American Brookings Institution says that about three million Americans, equivalent to about 1.8% of the civilian labor force in the country, have left the labor market due to the extended Covid, which means the US economy loses about $168 billion annually.
Mental health problems in Uncle Sam’s country are just as serious as physical health problems, although the former are difficult to measure or diagnose.
A report issued by the US Center for Disease Control showed that in 2021, about a third of high school students in the United States seriously considered suicide.
Young people suffer from a sense of alienation, with high dropout rates and declining university enrollment rates.
None of this bodes well for the United States.
Goldberg says that addressing the health care crisis in the United States is more difficult than addressing the problem of declining education.
The fast food industry wields huge power and forces the population, especially the poor, to eat fatty and salty foods, while talking about good things like environmental and social governance, and the US healthcare industry is a huge collection of vested interests and perverted incentives.
However, the difficulty of health reform in America doesn’t mean that it is impossible.
The United States confronted the influence of the tobacco industry and succeeded, and its smoking rate became the lowest among developed countries, especially in southern Europe, where people still smoke while eating.
Americans need to show the same tenacity with which they fought smoking, in the face of ready and fast food.
They must begin to think about the health of the population, as the liberals did in Britain in the early twentieth century when they realized that they couldn’t stand up to Germany militarily and economically without improving the public health of the British first.
Good health isn’t just nice, but a vital component of national competitiveness.
Poor health isn’t a tragedy for the individual who suffers from it.
It curbs the country’s productivity and its ability to defend itself.
Therefore, it can be said clearly that the sick and ill-healthy United States cannot win the current competition with China, whether economically or even militarily.