Mormons in America live longer than people in Sweden

As everyone knows, West Europeans live longer than Americans. In 1994-1998, the years for the study I am citing, Swedes lived 79.0 years, compared to 76.8 years for Americans. That is a 2.2 year advantage.

Generally, this difference is attributed to the health care policy. As you know, I believe that the public debate over-attribute effects to policy, and under-estimates other factors, including culture, norms and demography.

What fewer people know is that within the U.S, Mormons live far longer than non-Mormons. In Utah, LDS members live 6.5 years longer than non-members. This is a massive difference, indicating that life style, rather than health care system, is dominating the effect.

Overall, Utah (with low per capita income) has the third highest life expectancy in the U.S, after Hawaii and Minnesota (both incidentally states that are demographically unique).

What is even more impressive is that Mormons in the U.S lived 79.75 years, or 0.7 years longer than people in Sweden. (data again for 1994-1998. Sweden is above average in Europe, so the finding from this comparison applies even stronger to most other Europeans countries).

Do all the people who think the U.S should adopt the Swedish health care system to live longer advocate that Americans and Swedes convert to Mormonism to live longer?

I somehow doubt it.

Terrible American life style, combined with high crime and traffic deaths, are more likely explanations for the gap in life expectancy between the U.S and Europe than health care policy. An especially powerful piece of evidence for this is that rich Americans, who have access to all the health care they want, also live shorter than rich Europeans, who do not have access to better health care than the rest of the population.

Another fact that surprises most people is that the gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S in use of health care is not larger than the average of other OECD countries. Equal health is more a political slogan than reality in Europe, where the poor live much shorter than the rich.

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