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HAPPIER ABROAD  Why You Can Have A Better Life and Love Beyond America

Studies that show America to be the most dysfunctional in the industrialized world


"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti

The following goes to show how the myth of having more wealth and goods does not lead to happiness, contentment, or wholeness after all, but instead can lead to mental illness, health problems, and dysfunctional/deviant behavior, especially in a prudish, repressed, puritanical society like ours.


Highest prison population in the world


First, America's prison population, the highest in the world, has surpassed 2 million already.
U.S. Prison Population Tops 2 Million

From Robert Longley,
Your Guide to U.S. Gov Info / Resources.
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1 in 142 US residents now in prison

America's prison population topped 2 million inmates for the first time in history on June 30, 2002 according to a new report from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The 50 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government held 1,355,748 prisoners (two-thirds of the total incarcerated population), and local municipal and county jails held 665,475 inmates.

By midyear 2002,
America's jails held 1 in every 142 U.S. residents. Males were incarcerated at the rate of 1,309 inmates per 100,000 U.S. men, while the female incarceration rate was 113 per 100,000 women residents.

Of the 1,200,203 state prisoners, 3,055 were younger than 18 years old. In addition, adult jails held 7,248 inmates under 18."


Highest incidence of rape


We also have the highest incident of rape in the world.  One wonders why we have such high rates of sexual deviancy when the rest of the world doesn't.  Could it be that our values are too Puritanical, while our media culture constantly arouses us with images and the fantasy of a promiscuous lifestyle?  Whereas in the more free spirited countries, men are allowed to be men, and social relationships are more harmonious?


Somewhere in
America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice."


Higher homicide rates than other industrialized nations


Here we have homicide and violent crime rates in the USA, the world's alleged utopia and most ideal capitalistic system, being higher than that of other industrialized nations.

"Homicide rates in the U.S. far exceed those in any other industrialized nations. For other violent crimes, rates in the U.S. are among the world’s highest and substantially exceed rates in Canada, our nearest neighbor in terms of geography, culture, and crime reporting. Among 16 industrialized countries surveyed in 1988, the U.S. had the highest prevalence rates for serious sexual assaults and for all other assaults including threats of physical harm." (Understanding and Preventing Violence 1993)


Jeremy Rifkin compares rates of homicide and suicide in the USA vs. Europe, providing some shocking statistics from his research.  In his book, The European Dream, page 81 – 82, he reports:


"Living in a safe environment is also one of the hallmarks of a good society.  We have come to believe that the more affluent a society becomes, the more peaceful it is likely to be.  If GDP is the standard, then the United States ought to be one of the safest nations on Earth.


Between 1997 and 1999, the average rate of homicides per 100,000 people in the EU was 1.7.  The U.S. rate of homicide was nearly four times higher, or nearly 6.26 per 100,000 people. (84)  More terrifying still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the rates of childhood homicides, suicides, and firearm-related deaths exceed those of the other twenty-five wealthiest nations in the world, including the fourteen wealthiest European countries.  The homicide rate for children in the U.S. was five times higher than for children in the other twenty-five countries combined.  The suicide rate among U.S. children was two times higher than all of the suicides combined in all the other twenty-five countries measured. (85)


It's not surprising that the U.S. incarceration rate is so high compared to that of the European Union.  As mentioned earlier, in chapter 2, more than two million Americans are currently in prison - that's nearly one quarter of the entire prison population in the world. (86)  While EU member states average 87 prisoners per 100,000 population, the United States averages an incredible 685 prisoners per 100,000 population. (87)"



84. Graff, James. "Gunning for It." Time Europe. Vol. 159. No. 19. May 13, 2002

85. "Rates of Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm-related Death Among Children - 26 Industrialized Countries."  Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report. Vol. 46, No. 5. February 7, 1997. P. 102.

86. Barclay, Gordon, and Cynthia Tavares. "International Comparison of Criminal Justice Statistics 2000." July 12, 2002; "Two Million Inmates and Counting." The New York Times. April 9, 2003.

87. Barclay, Gordon, and Cynthia Tavares. "International Comparisons Of Criminal Justice Statistics 2000."


In the same book, Mr. Rifkin accounts for our high homicide/violence rates by revealing that a growing number of Americans actually believe that it is acceptable to use violence as a means to achieve your goals:


Page 31 - 32:

“Canadians and Americans were asked if “it is acceptable to use violence to get what you want.” In 1992, 9 percent of Canadians and only 10 percent of Americans said using violence to get what you want was acceptable. (62) By 1996, however, 18 percent of Americans felt that it was all right to use violence to get what you want, while still only 9 percent of Canadians thought the same way. (63) In 2000, the gap between Canadians and Americans had widened even more. Twelve percent of Canadians thoughts violence was justified to get what they wanted, while 24 percent of Americans felt the same way. (64) That’s nearly one out of four Americans believing that using violence to get what they want is acceptable. Michael Adams, who heads up the polling organization Environics, concluded that “Americans are prepared to put a lot more on the line than Canadians to achieve their version of the American Dream,” including committing acts of violence, if necessary. (65)”



62. Adams, Michael. Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada, and the Myth of Converging Values. Toronto: Penguin, 2003. p. 53.

63. Ibid.

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid.


Increase in wealth failed to increase happiness for Americans


This survey found that having more did not equal more happiness for Americans.

"The survey, which has studied happiness since 1945, finds it has not increased in Europe and North America even though the societies have become wealthier. The desire for material goods, it concludes, is "a happiness suppressant."  


Poorer countries having happier people than America


And if the American myth that having more = being happier were true, then how could Nigeria and other poor countries have happier people than ours? 

"Nigeria has the highest percentage of happy people followed by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico, while Russia, Armenia and Romania have the fewest."


Highest rates of mental illness in the world


And not surprisingly, mental illness in the industrialized world was found to be the highest in the US, a whopping 26 percent of adults, according to MSN:


"Mental illnesses including anxiety disorders and depression are common and under-treated in many developed and developing countries, with the highest rate found in the United States, according to a study of 14 countries................ Rates ranged from 26.4 percent of people in the United States to 8.2 percent of people in Italy."


According to a new study, at least half of Americans are reportedly struggling with mental illness or have been in therapy:

Are We Really That
By CHRISTOPHER LANE | March 26, 2008

CHICAGO - America has reached a point where almost half its population is described as being in some way mentally ill, and nearly a quarter of its citizens - 67.5 million - have taken antidepressants.”


One poster on my Forum it this way:


“I think this is a result of the social isolation in America and a result of America's culture which demands that people always look fake happy even if they're not.

In other cultures, just talking to neighbors, friends, or relatives about their feelings is probably enough "therapy" for most people. If people no longer have opportunities to interact with others in a meaningful way, they have no choice but to talk to psychologists instead.”


Studies show loneliness and isolation to be national epidemics in America


Not surprisingly, given Americans’ isolation mentality, dislike of other people, and “no talking to strangers unless its business-related” social rule, America has a major loneliness epidemic, probably the worst in the world. It’s so bad that even the mainstream media cannot deny it, as these news reports below reveal. Therefore, if you think that being lonely in America is only a problem for misfits and losers, think again. I guess in order to live in America, you have to love loneliness. What a weird and unnatural social environment.

The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier
Published: July 2, 2006

FOR as long as humans have gathered in groups, it seems, some people have been left on the outside looking in. In postwar America in particular, the idea that loneliness pervades a portion of society has been a near-constant. Only the descriptions have changed: the "lonely crowd" alienation of the 1950's; the grim career-driven angst of the 70's and 80's; the "Bowling Alone" collapse of social connections of the 90's.

There is a new installment in the annals of loneliness. Americans are not only lacking in bowling partners, now they're lacking in people to tell their deepest, darkest secrets. They've hunkered down even more, their inner circle often contracting until it includes only family, only a spouse or, at worst, no one.

And that is something the Internet may help ease, but is unlikely to cure.

A recent study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona found that, on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives — serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all.

"The kinds of connections we studied are the kinds of people you call on for social support, for real concrete help when you need it," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociologist at Duke and an author of the study, which analyzed responses in interviews that mirrored a survey from 1985. "These are the tightest inner circle."

The study "should provide a wake-up call to our society," said Bill Maier, a vice president and psychologist in residence with Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian group. "We're missing out on deep, meaningful interpersonal relationships."

Yet within the analysis there was at least a suggestion of hope.

"The one type of relationship that actually went up was talking over personally important things with your spouse," Dr. Smith-Lovin said.

Like "Bowling Alone," the essay and, later, book by Robert D. Putnam, a public policy professor a Harvard, the Duke study suggested that a weakening of community connections is in part responsible for increasing social isolation. More people are working and commuting longer hours and have little time for the kinds of external social activities that could lead to deeper relationships.

So the closest ties increasingly are limited to family members, in particular to spouses.

"That's probably a result of the fact that men's and women's lives are more structurally similar now than in 1985," Dr. Smith-Lovin said. It's more likely that both spouses are working at jobs that are important to them, and men are more involved around the house. "Spouses literally have more to talk about," she said.

Dr. Maier, for one, sees that as cause for at least some optimism in a society whose fast pace generally bodes badly for family life. "To hear that people are investing more in their nuclear family is a positive thing," he said.

The Internet is also cause for some optimism, because it has made it easier to maintain ties among family members who have become scattered. Those ties inevitably developed over long-term, face-to-face contact, but e-mail can help keep them strong.

"E-mail really does help maintain your social networks," said John Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Recent Pew surveys, he said, found that "when you contact family by e-mail, you share important and serious things."

Still, Dr. Smith-Lovin said, any optimism must be tempered. For one thing, having only one confidant, even if that confidant is a spouse, leaves a person extremely vulnerable if the spouse dies or the marriage disintegrates.

And in the end, she and others pointed out, e-mail or instant messaging is no substitute for face-to-face contact. "E-mailing somebody far way is not the same as them going to pick up your child at daycare or bringing you chicken soup," she said.

Dr. Putnam said the new study reinforced much of what he had reported in "Bowling Alone," which had been criticized by some academics as a faulty analysis that ignored other social and economic trends. And even if the new study points to a rise in spouses as confidants, that is not especially cause to rejoice, he said. "It's like with global warming, if we learn that temperatures are going to rise slightly less than we thought," he said. "It's still a problem."

"Sure, you might say, we've still got our wives or husbands or mothers," he said. "That's true. But gosh, the number of friends you have is a strong predictor of how long you live."

The impact goes beyond the individual, as well. "There are effects on my neighbors of my not knowing them," he said. For one thing, "If I don't know them well and they don't know me, that has a demonstrable effect on the crime rate."

Dr. Horrigan said there was anecdotal evidence that some members of a community use e-mail and the Internet "to keep up with people very close by." The Internet can help expand social networks, although the ties it creates are not as strong as those the Duke researchers are concerned with. Yet they can be useful.

His group's research has shown that the Internet is increasingly being used during life's "major moments" — to gather information or advice when making a big financial investment, deciding where to live, or choosing a college for a child. The research has shown that "people were more likely to get help through their social network" for those kinds of decisions.

Still, Dr. Putnam said, "The real interesting future is how can we use the Net to strengthen and deepen relationships that we have offline."


Another study on social isolation reported in the Washington Post confirms this as well:


Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says
The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 23, 2006; A03

Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.

The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

"That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."

If close social relationships support people in the same way that beams hold up buildings, more and more Americans appear to be dependent on a single beam.

Compared with 1985, nearly 50 percent more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in. But if people face trouble in that relationship, or if a spouse falls sick, that means these people have no one to turn to for help, Smith-Lovin said.

"We know these close ties are what people depend on in bad times," she said. "We're not saying people are completely isolated. They may have 600 friends on . [a popular networking Web site] and e-mail 25 people a day, but they are not discussing matters that are personally important."

The new research is based on a high-quality random survey of nearly 1,500 Americans. Telephone surveys miss people who are not home, but the General Social Survey, funded by the National Science Foundation, has a high response rate and conducts detailed face-to-face interviews, in which respondents are pressed to confirm they mean what they say.

Whereas nearly three-quarters of people in 1985 reported they had a friend in whom they could confide, only half in 2004 said they could count on such support. The number of people who said they counted a neighbor as a confidant dropped by more than half, from about 19 percent to about 8 percent.

The results, being published today in the American Sociological Review, took researchers by surprise because they had not expected to see such a steep decline in close social ties.

Smith-Lovin said increased professional responsibilities, including working two or more jobs to make ends meet, and long commutes leave many people too exhausted to seek social -- as well as family -- connections: "Maybe sitting around watching 'Desperate Housewives' . . . is what counts for family interaction."

Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard and the author of "Bowling Alone," a book about increasing social isolation in the United States, said the new study supports what he has been saying for years to skeptical audiences in the academy.

"For most of the 20th century, Americans were becoming more connected with family and friends, and there was more giving of blood and money, and all of those trend lines turn sharply in the middle '60s and have gone in the other direction ever since," he said.

Americans go on 60 percent fewer picnics today and families eat dinner together 40 percent less often compared with 1965, he said. They are less likely to meet at clubs or go bowling in groups. Putnam has estimated that every 10-minute increase in commutes makes it 10 percent less likely that people will establish and maintain close social ties.

Television is a big part of the problem, he contends. Whereas 5 percent of U.S. households in 1950 owned television sets, 95 percent did a decade later.

But University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman questioned whether the study's focus on intimate ties means that social ties in general are fraying. He said people's overall ties are actually growing, compared with previous decades, thanks in part to the Internet. Wellman has calculated that the average person today has about 250 ties with friends and relatives.

Wellman praised the quality of the new study and said its results are surprising, but he said it does not address how core ties change in the context of other relationships.

"I don't see this as the end of the world but part of a larger puzzle," he said. "My guess is people only have so much energy, and right now they are switching around a number of networks. . . . We are getting a division of labor in relationships. Some people give emotional aid, some people give financial aid."

Putnam and Smith-Lovin said Americans may be well advised to consciously build more relationships. But they also said social institutions and social-policy makers need to pay more attention.

"The current structure of workplace regulations assumes everyone works from 9 to 5, five days a week," Putnam said. "If we gave people much more flexibility in their work life, they would use that time to spend more time with their aging mom or best friend."

Another report and study in Live Science finds a link between loneliness and health problems:


“In a new University of Chicago study of men and women 50 to 68 years old, those who scored highest on measures of loneliness also had higher blood pressure. And high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, the number one killer in many industrialized nations and number two the United States.

Lonely people have blood pressure readings as much as 30 points higher than non-lonely people, said the study leaders Louise Hawkley and Christopher Masi. Blood pressure differences between lonely and non-lonely people were smallest at age 50 and greatest among the oldest people tested.

Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging, which funded this research, said he was "surprised by the magnitude of the relationship between loneliness and hypertension in this well-controlled, cross-sectional study."

Nothing worse

The researchers separated loneliness out from depression, age, race, gender, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood pressure medications, hostility, stress, social support and other factors.

Also, loneliness does eat at you. The morbid health effect of loneliness accumulates gradually and faster as you get older, the study found. Loneliness was worse for blood pressure than any other psychological or social factor the researchers studied.

Weight loss and physical exercise reduce blood pressure by the same amount that loneliness increases it. Hawkley said this finding especially surprised her.

"It's comparable to the effects you see for the health benefits that are so often advocated such as exercise [to] keep your blood pressure under control," Hawkley told LiveScience.

Who is lonely

About one in five Americans is lonely, a gnawing emotional state that is a patchwork of feeling unhappy, stressed out, friendless and hostile.

The main psychological difference between lonely and non-lonely people is that the former perceive stressful circumstances as threatening rather than challenging and cope passively and withdraw from stress rather than trying to solve the problem, said study co-author John T. Cacioppo.

Lonely people who are middle-aged and older tend to also have problems with alcoholism, depression, weak immune system responses to illness, impaired sleep and suicide.

Some psychologists think that associations between loneliness and health or physiology are just part of a generic stress response, but this new research suggests loneliness has a unique impact.”


However, some think even the “1 in 5” stat is an understatement:


Only 1 in 5?  … Winston, you and I both know this survey is on the conservative side. People who say they aren't lonely have simply (I believe) mal-adapted to being lonely. No one here really communicates much besides hostility or freakish over blandishness.”



Biggest obesity crisis in the history of the world


And of course, no one can deny the obesity problem in America that is the worst in the world, period, a fact which is universally agreed upon by everyone, including the most fanatical American patriots.  Even Oprah admits to it on her show.


"In one government report of 4,000 adults and an equal number of children, the number of overweight adults for 2001-02 had risen to 65.7 percent versus 64.5 percent in a similar study of adults in 2000-01. The level of obesity in adults edged upward from 30.5 percent to 30.6 percent. The number of adults who were labeled extremely obese grew slightly from 4.7 percent to 5.1 percent."


Some reasons given to me as to why Americans are the most overweight in the world are:  1) too much time spent in cars and homes rather than walking/public transportation, 2) lack of exercise due to laziness and too much work, 3) too much sugar, processed bleached white flour, preservatives and grease in their mainstream foods (none of which are good for you), 4) overly large meal portions, especially at dinner, even in restaurants, 5) focus on dinner being the main and largest meal of the day rather than lunch, which throws your system off balance and increases weight gain. (many monks don't even eat dinner to maximize their spirituality) Ideally, dinner should be the smallest meal of the day and breakfast the biggest, but Americans do the opposite.


The most unhealthy and sick population among industrialized nations

Quite sadly, it has been known for a long time that the American population is the most unhealthy and sick among the industrialized nations.  In fact, a study comparing middle aged whites in the USA and England solidly confirmed this, as well as both British and American medical journals.  Check out this article:;_ylt=ApwGI2_a4VR7yCf_3J4qmU2s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3czJjNGZoBHNlYwM3NTE-

”Study Shows Americans Sicker Than English

By CARLA K. JOHNSON and MIKE STOBBE, Associated Press Writers
Tue May  2, 10:47 PM ET

CHICAGO - White, middle-aged Americans — even those who are rich — are far less healthy than their peers in England, according to stunning newresearch that erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.

Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer — findings that held true no matter what income or education level.

Those dismal results are despite the fact that
U.S. health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens.


"Everybody should be discussing it: Why isn't the richest country in the world the healthiest country in the world?" asks study co-author Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London in England.


The study, based on government statistics in both countries, adds context to the already-known fact that the United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet trails in rankings of life expectancy.


The United States spends about $5,200 per person on health care while England spends about half that in adjusted dollars.


Even experts familiar with the weaknesses in the U.S. health system seemed stunned by the study's conclusions.


"I knew we were less healthy, but I didn't know the magnitude of the disparities," said Gerard Anderson, an expert in chronic disease and international health at Johns Hopkins University who had no role in the research.


Just why the United States fared so miserably wasn't clear. Answers ranging from too little exercise to too little money and too much stress were offered.


Even the U.S. obesity epidemic couldn't solve the mystery. The researchers crunched numbers to create a hypothetical statistical world in which the English had American lifestyle risk factors, including being as fat as Americans. In that model, Americans were still sicker.


Americans reported twice the rate of diabetes compared to the English, 12.5 percent versus 6 percent. For high blood pressure, it was 42 percent for Americans versus 34 percent for the English; cancer showed up in 9.5 percent of Americans compared to 5.5 percent of the English.


The upper crust in both countries was healthier than middle-class and low-income people in the same country. But richer Americans' health status resembled the health of the low-income English.


"It's something of a mystery," said Richard Suzman of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which helped fund the study.


Health experts have known the U.S. population is less healthy than that of other industrialized nations, according to several important measurements, including life expectancy. The U.S. ranks behind about two dozen other countries, according to the World Health Organization.”


The study was also reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):


“Results  The US population in late middle age is less healthy than the equivalent British population for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease, and cancer. Within each country, there exists a pronounced negative socioeconomic status (SES) gradient with self-reported disease so that health disparities are largest at the bottom of the education or income variants of the SES hierarchy. This conclusion is generally robust to control for a standard set of behavioral risk factors, including smoking, overweight, obesity, and alcohol drinking, which explain very little of these health differences. These differences between countries or across SES groups within each country are not due to biases in self-reported disease because biological markers of disease exhibit exactly the same patterns. To illustrate, among those aged 55 to 64 years, diabetes prevalence is twice as high in the United States and only one fifth of this difference can be explained by a common set of risk factors. Similarly, among middle-aged adults, mean levels of C-reactive protein are 20% higher in the United States compared with England and mean high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels are 14% lower. These differences are not solely driven by the bottom of the SES distribution. In many diseases, the top of the SES distribution is less healthy in the United States as well.


Conclusion  Based on self-reported illnesses and biological markers of disease, US residents are much less healthy than their English counterparts and these differences exist at all points of the SES distribution.”


As well as the British Medical Journal: (abstract below)


Middle aged white people are healthier in England than US


Janice Hopkins Tanne


New York

People aged 55 to 64 in England are healthier than their counter-parts in the United States, a new study shows. This is despite the fact that the US spends $5274 (£2900; 4193) per person on medical care each year and the United Kingdom as a whole spends only $1564.

The disparity between the health of middle aged white English and American people found is so great, the study found, that the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease among Americans of the highest socioeconomic status is similar to that among the lowest status English people.

The study's authors, Michael Marmot and colleagues at University College London, found that middle aged white English people had lower rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, and cancer than middle aged white Americans (JAMA 2006;295: 2037-45[Abstract/Free Full Text]). The reason remains a puzzle, although the study suggests . . . [Full text of this article]”

Whatever the reasons for these finds - fatty foods, lack of exercise, stress, conspiracy to poison the food in America, bad national karma, etc. life in the US definitely seems dysfunctional and unhealthy.


US slips down development index


Lately, the US has slipped down the development index compared to other industrialized nations.  This news article reports on this.


US slips down development index



A district in Manhattan has the highest human development index in the US

Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed nation, according to a report from several US charities.

The report found that the US ranked 42nd in the world for life expectancy despite spending more on health care per person than any other country.

Overall, the American Human Development Report ranked the world's richest country 12th for human development.

The study looked at US government data on health, education and income.

The report was funded by Oxfam America, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

The report combines measurements of health, education and income into one measurement - the human development index - based on that used by the United Nations.

Health insurance

The report, Measure of America, identifies significant progress in the US in the last 50 years.

Life expectancy - which averages 78 - has risen eight years since 1960.

 Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living

Sarah Burd-Sharps
Author, Measure of

Japan has the world's highest life expectancy - 82.1 years - according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The US report identifies obesity and the lack of health insurance for some 47 million Americans as the most significant factors in premature death.

It also provides a snapshot of the inequalities between the richest and the poorest Americans and between different ethnic groups.

See a state-by-state breakdown of the development index

Enlarge Map

"The Measure of America reveals huge gaps among some groups in our country to access opportunity and reach their potential," said the report's author, Sarah Burd-Sharps.

"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living.

"For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut."

Rich north-east

Asian males in the US were found to have the highest human development index score and were expected to live 14 years longer than African-American males, who had the lowest human development index rating.

African-Americans had a shorter lifespan than the average American did in the late 1970s.


More US babies die in their first year than in most other rich countries

The report further breaks down its findings into the US's 436 Congressional districts.

The 20th district, around Fresno, California, was ranked last - with people earning one-third as much as residents of the top-ranked US district,- in Manhattan, New York.

The US north-east has the highest overall ranking because people there earn more, are more highly-educated and have the second highest life expectancy.

West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama are four of the five bottom states on the index. Mississippi is ranked lowest.

Among other findings:

          Of the world's richest nations, the US has the most children (15%) living in poverty

          Of the OECD nations, the US has the most people in prison - as a percentage and in absolute numbers

          25% of 15-year-old students performed at or below the lowest level in an international maths test - worse than Canada, France, Germany and Japan

          If the US infant mortality rate were equal to first-ranked Sweden, more than 20,000 babies would survive beyond their first year of life




Personally, as for me, each time I return to the USA from abroad, I feel that the mental health I gained abroad starts to slowly erode.  That is why I don't like staying here long, else insanity will catch up.  In fact, those familiar with my Christian deconversion story ( know that when I was a teen, my mental health problems were cured when I went abroad to Taiwan for a year.  Upon return, my sanity and mental health were rejuvenated and enhanced for a long time.  So, it would seem that one cure for mental illness in America might be to leave the country for a while.


One immigrant shared this observation:


“I am a foreigner living here.  I came across your e-booklet by chance after the 13 years I have lived in the States and been trying to find an answer to the high rate of depression (by the way I am in healthcare), unhappiness, isolation, lack of culture openess, fragmentation of family, alcoholism, and the ignorance of what real life is all about.  These chronic problems exist despite what they seem to "have it all financially and educationally" (I am speaking of the environment where I live and work).  I find that there is a big misconception of differenciating between "privacy" and "isolation".  Also, there is an awkward unfulfilling self-interpretation of what happiness means.  However, I have been able to draw a striking difference between my american friends who are well-traveled and got to live abroad and those who never had similar experiences or have not been open to it.  Eric Fromm in his books "to have or to be" and "the art of loving" addresses some of these issues that industrialism has falsely promised.  But still, people from industrialized european countries do not seem to suffer the same unhappiness found in America. Actually, many (but not all) of the europeans (at least students, tourists and those who worked here for few years) I have met in the US relocated back to Europe.”


One of my best friends Michael Goodspeed, a freethinker and writer, eloquently sums up the above scary findings about our dysfunctional society in his article Change, Or Die:

“I can't help but feel bitter over having been born and raised in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century. It is a raw, statistical fact that America is a more infectious breeding ground for emotional dysfunction than any other culture in the history of the world. If you doubt this, consider the following:


The United States has born and raised 76% of the world's serial killers, even though we hold just 3% of the world's population; we sport the highest rate of childhood murders and suicides among the world's 26 wealthiest nations; the highest rate of obesity of any nation in the world; the highest incidence of the eating disorder anorexia; the highest rate of adolescent drug use of any industrialized nation; and the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the Western world.


I am embittered, because like millions of my contemporaries, the poison talons of American culture did not leave me untouched. Before I'd grown out of adolescence, I'd battled an eating disorder (anorexia), depression, suicide attempts, and Munchausen syndrome (the act of inflicting injuries on oneself.) Again, it is undeniable that these pathologies exist almost exclusively in the United States, and have only fully manifested in the last few decades. I can't help but wonder how different my childhood might have been if I'd simply been born in another place, at another time. And I can't help but grieve for the millions of souls who are suffering the tortures of emotional dysfunction.”


Goodspeed goes on to brilliantly summarize in one paragraph the heavy dysfunctional problems inherent in America:

“The reasons for our collective dysfunction have been enumerated ad nauseam; our hopelessly "dumbed down" public schools; our chemically-laced air, water, food, and soft drinks, poisoning our bodies and damaging our brains; our rancid and spiritually vacuous culture centered around a media that markets murder and sadism as entertainment; our bought and sold "elected" officials, who make life and death decisions based on their own financial interests, and for whom "truth" is just a matter of semantics; our economy, which is guided by the principles of "win at all costs" and "screw everyone but me"; our corrupted religions, which have been usurped by political extremists and completely robbed of all spiritual meaning; and the monstrously hideous, cement and brick, Godless "architecture" that makes up most American cities.”


Finally, here he describes how our culture manufactures mental illness and offers hope and suggestions for overcoming the insanity:

“The United States, while bestowing her citizens with opportunities and privileges not found in any other nation, has become the supreme manufacturer of mental illness - violent, self-destructive, and sociopathic pathologies. We are going to destroy ourselves if we do not recognize the enormity of this obstacle before us.


And herein lies an opportunity to rise above bitterness, and find hope. An interesting fact about emotional dysfunction is that it has the ability to both paralyze its victims, and set them free. People who struggle with mental illness have only two choices: they can live in denial until their lives spiral completely out of control, or they can journey inward and confront their demons head on. I speak from experience on this. I have no doubt that I am a stronger, wiser, and happier person for having discovered first hand the pathway out of dysfunction.


The first step out of dysfunction is to recognize that your way of seeing the world is fundamentally flawed. You have been programmed to believe that your interests are separate from everyone else's; that in order for you to win, someone else must lose. Remember, mercenary competition is the key tenet of every aspect of American culture. The desire to be better than others stems from the belief that you are INCOMPLETE, and in need of an elusive, future reward in order to find happiness. This constant seeking of future fulfillment blinds us to the rewards that ALWAYS exist in the present moment.”




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