Skip to main content

16-05-2012 | Article

CDC report: The healthy, wealthy, and wise


National Center for Health Statistics

MedWire News: Study results suggest that, contrary to the popular saying, what you don't know can hurt you. The report shows that US citizens with higher education and income levels have lower rates of many chronic diseases than their less well-off, less educated fellow citizens.

"Health, United States, 2011," from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides a snapshot of overall health in the USA, using data drawn from federal and private sources. The current edition, the 35th, includes a special section on health in relation to socioeconomic status.

The study authors found that from 2007 through 2010, boys and girls from the ages of 2-19 years had lower rates of obesity when they lived in households where the head of household had a higher level of education. In households headed by a man or woman with a bachelor's degree or higher, 11% of boys and 7% of girls were obese. In contrast, in households where the head of household did not graduate from high school, 24% of boys and 22% of girls were obese.

Obesity prevalence also varied by education levels among adult women but not among men. Women aged 25 years and older who did not have a bachelor's degree had obesity rates ranging from 39-43%, compared with 25% for women with bachelor's or master's degrees, or doctorates.

More highly educated adults were also less likely to be current smokers, the report's authors found. In 2010, the prevalence of smoking among adults 25-65 years of age with a high-school diploma or less was 31%, compared with 24% for adults with some college education, and 9% among holders of a college degree or higher.

The overall percentage of US adults aged 18 and over who were current smokers was down slightly from the previous year, declining from 21% in 2009, to 19% in 2010.

The report also shows that despite an increasing prevalence of obesity (but not of overweight) from 1988-1994 to 2007-2010, the prevalence of uncontrolled high blood pressure (mean systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher, or mean diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or higher) declined for all age groups of both men and women. Nonetheless, blood pressure was uncontrolled in nearly half of all adults with hypertension in 2007-2010, the report notes.

Healthcare expenditures took a decidedly different direction from the blood-pressure numbers, however, nearly doubling from $ 1.1 trillion in 1999 to $ 2.1 trillion in 2009, the authors found. Medicare expenditures grew by an average annual rate of 9%, Medicaid and private insurance by 7%, and out-of-pocket expenses (eg, co-pays, deductibles, drug and equipment costs) by 5%.

By Neil Osterweil