IN OTHER WORDS: Healthy Brits

Medical researchers recently set heads to shake on both sides of the Atlantic with a study showing that white, middle-aged English people are much healthier than white, middle-aged Americans. The English have less cancer, less high blood pressure, less heart disease and less diabetes.

The results are so striking because there is no ready explanation for them. Yes, the English have a national health insurance system and America doesn’t, but the gap is just as great between wealthy English people and their US counterparts, nearly all of whom have insurance coverage. In both countries, health relates directly to wealth,

but the richest third of Americans have as much heart disease and diabetes as the poorest third of the English. The study focused on persons aged 55 to 64 and included only non-Hispanic whites.

The study has prompted considerable speculation about the roots of American bad health. One theory is that it reflects the fact that Americans on an average have fewer vacation days than the English, contributing to an unhealthy level of stress. Another theory is that Americans dependent on cars are less likely to get the daily exercise of walking than the English. The health differences are, the researchers say, “fertile ground for additional exploration.”