8 Shocking Ways America Leads the World
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People uninterested in change and progress tend to cling to the jingoistic fantasy that America is an exceptional country. Often this implies that the U.S. is somehow superior to other nations. Some, like the neocons, have taken the idea of exceptionalism to mean that America should be above the law and that other countries should be remade in our image. Others, like conservative evangelicals, believe that America's supposed exceptionalism is God's will.
In recent decades, America has indeed pulled ahead of the global pack in a number of areas. But they aren’t necessarily things to go waving the flag over. If we can't address the following trends, we'll end up snuffing out the things that truly have made the country great, like opportunities for mobility and a decent social safety net.
1. Most expensive place to have a baby. In the U.S., having a baby is going to cost you, big-time, before you even get that bundle of joy home. The New York Times reports that on average, a hospital delivery costs $9,775 — and make that $15,041 if you’re having a Cesarean. No other first-world country on earth expects new parents to shell out that kind of money just for the privilege of procreating.
You might think insurance would help. You’d be wrong. A staggering 62 percent of private plans come with zilch in the way of maternity coverage. Mothers-to-be are dragged through what the Times calls “an extended shopping trip though the American healthcare bazaar” where they try to figure out the cost of things like ultrasounds and blood tests. Pricing is often opaque and widely variable, and it’s common for mothers to receive treatments they don’t necessarily need. Even when insurance does cover maternity care, between the deductibles and co-insurance fees, women can expect to shell out thousands in out-of-pocket expenses: an average of $3,400.
Do American mothers get some kind of unusual care for all that dough? Nope. They receive the same services moms receive in other first-world countries; they just pay for them individually and at higher rates.
2. Obesity. The U.S. has been ranked as the most obese country in the world, though a recent report by the U.N. says that Mexico is pulling ahead of us. Not surprisingly, obesity is considered a national health crisis and contributes to an estimated 100,000 to 400,000 deaths in the U.S. per year. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 35.7 percent of American adults are obese, and 17 percent of American children. More than two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese.
Americans are ballooning for a number of reasons, including our fondness for fried food, sugary drinks, cheap, pre-packaged foods, processed meats, our sedentary lifestyle, particularly television-watching, too little sleep, and a lack of exercise. Obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, complications in pregnancy, strokes, liver disease —the list goes on and on. The obesity epidemic is also responsible for increased healthcare use and expenditures. Kentucky is the most obese state, and Colorado is the least obese.
Researchers predict that the cost of obesity in the U.S. is likely to reach $344 billion by 2018.
3. Anxiety disorders. Americans are freaking out. Researchers have looked at the prevalence of various types of mental illness around the globe and found that the U.S. is the world champion in anxiety. According to the 2009 results of the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey, 19 percent of Americans were found to experience a clinical anxiety disorder over a given 12-month period. The National Institutes of Health puts the number at 18 percent of adults, which means that at least 40 million Americans are suffering.