Here's how our health system compares with other developed nations

United States had the lowest life expectancy

The United States spends more—much more—on health care compared with other developed nations, but still fares worse on several health outcomes, according to new research from the Commonwealth Fund.

For the report, the Commonwealth Fund used 2013 data (predating the Affordable Care Act) from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to compare 13 high-income countries.

The data compared health care spending, prices, supply, and utilization, as well as health outcomes, among:

  • Australia;
  • Canada;
  • Denmark;
  • France;
  • Germany;
  • Japan;
  • Netherlands;
  • New Zealand;
  • Norway;
  • Sweden;
  • Switzerland;
  • The United Kingdom; and
  • The United States.

Report findings

According to the report, the United States spent the most on health care, at $9,086 per person. Switzerland spent the second most, at $6,325 per person, while the United Kingdom spent just $2,800 per person.

The United States also spent the greatest share of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care, at 17.1%, while France spent the second most, at 11.6%. The United Kingdom spent 8.8% of its GDP on health care in 2013, the lowest rate among countries in the report.

The United States had the lowest life expectancy, at 78.8 years, the highest percentage of people 65 or older with at least two chronic conditions, at 68%, and fared relatively poorly on infant mortality and obesity.

Meanwhile, U.S. adults used diagnostic services far more frequently than residents of any other country in the report and were the second-largest consumers of prescription drugs.

At the same time, the United States had one of the lowest cancer death rates among countries included in the report.


Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said in a statement, "Time and again, we see evidence that the amount of money we spend on health care in this country is not gaining us comparable health benefits."

Blumenthal added, "We have to look at the root causes of this disconnect and invest our health care dollars in ways that will allow us to live longer while enjoying better health and greater productivity" (Mozes, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 10/8; Sullivan, The Hill, 10/8).

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