Quite a few people have linked to this story from the New York Times in which it’s reported that elderly Brits are healthier than elderly Americans. There have been a wide variety of interesting takes on the story. For example, Arnold Kling wonders how they controlled for reverse causation i.e. it’s possible that more sickness is being identified here. Some have suggested that universal health care in the form of the British National Health Service is responsible.
Some have suggested diet, exercise, tea, or other causes. No one has suggested the obvious: our population is so much more diverse than Britain’s that comparisons are not very meaningful.
I suspect that iatrogenic morbidity and mortality is responsible for at least a fraction of the difference: there are higher incentives here both to overtreat and to undertreat.
But by far the best suggestion I’ve read is in this comment at The Moderate Voice:
Maybe it has something to do with England having only 4 TV channels and they’re all BBC networks. I have trouble finding something good to watch and I have 100+ channels on basic cable. And if I don’t have anything to watch, I do something else. I would guess that the English spend a great deal more time away from the TV than Americans do.