April 25, 2005

Japan's Secret Weapon: Health

These Angry Bear charts are cool in their own right—bottom line, the U.S. doesn't get much in the way of health outcomes for all its health care spending—but what's going on with Japan? According to the graphs, they smoke far and away the most of any developed country, but nevertheless they still have the longest life expectancy at birth. (And I'd add here that non-smoking Japanese people are far more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than those in many other countries—I'm not even sure that they've entirely banned it on airplanes yet.)

One clue is that Japan's also the least obese of developed nations, though that seems like something that could be caused by high smoking rates. Certainly I'm not aware of any mass exercise craze that's caught on in Japan. I'm also not convinced they have the, uh, soundest health care practices around. (Fun horror anecdote: When one of my younger brothers was about, oh, ten or so, he got a schoolmate's tooth lodged in his head, and the Japanese doctor ended up putting a massive metal clamp on the wound for a few weeks, before realizing oops, that wasn't really what he wanted to do at all.)

So what's their secret? Genetics, I guess. Still bizarre.
-- Brad Plumer 3:39 PM || ||