Older adults sicker in U.S. than other countries

Older American adults are sicker than those in 10 other countries, with nearly seven in 10 dealing with at least two chronic conditions, according to an international survey published in Health Affairs.

Researchers from the Commonwealth Fund, surveyed 15,617 adults 65 and older in the U.S., Canada, France, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

In addition to finding that 68 percent of American respondents live with two or more chronic conditions, researchers found that a small majority--53 percent--take at least four medications, although at 83 percent, Americans also had one of the highest rates of respondents who said they could carry out their treatment plans in their daily lives.

They further found that:

  • Only 57 percent of U.S. respondents could get same-day or next-day appointments for illness, which put the U.S. below France and New Zealand's 83 percent and Germany's 81 percent, but above Canada's 45 percent

  • Americans scored better on the availability of specialty care appointments, with 86 percent saying they waited fewer than four weeks, putting them ahead of all surveyed countries except Switzerland

  • At 23 percent, U.S. respondents were most likely to say test results or records were unavailable at appointments or that their doctor had ordered duplicate tests, but at 28 percent, they were among the least likely to have gaps in their plans after being discharged from the hospital

  • In half of all countries surveyed, at least 20 percent of chronically ill adults were themselves in a caregiver position

As almost all U.S. respondents were covered by either Medicare or some other form of insurance, researchers were able "to compare more directly the performance of the U.S. healthcare delivery system with...other industrialized nations," according to the survey. A June report from the Commonwealth Fund found healthcare in the U.S. was the most expensive of 11 Western industrialized nations, but last in outcomes quality, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the survey abstract