OECD Health Statistics 2014 - How Does the United States Compare?


Health expenditure, public and private, as a share of GDP, OECD countries, 2012 or latest year

Washington, June 30 -- Newly released statistics reveal that health spending accounted for 16.9% of GDP in the United States in 2012 - the highest share among OECD countries and more than 7½ percentage points above the OECD average of 9.3%. In contrast to most OECD countries, health spending in the United States is split evenly between public and private sources. In 2012, 48% of health spending in the United States was publicly financed, well below the average of 72% in OECD countries.

Health spending in the United States has been on a significant slowing trend, primarily due to price effects in the pharmaceutical and hospital sectors. The slowdown predates the economic crisis, but decelerated further to around 2% in 2011 and 2012. This lower rate growth remains higher than the OECD average which includes some European countries that made significant reductions in health spending.[1]

In line with many other OECD countries, pharmaceutical spending in the United States has been on a downward trend, after years of stronger growth. The reduction of 1.1% in 2012 was mainly due to price effects caused in part by the loss of patent protection for some blockbuster drugs, and the resulting increase in the share of cheaper generics in the market.


Health expenditure growth rates (in real terms) since 2004, United States and OECD average  Health status and risk factors

In 2011 (latest year available), life expectancy in the United States stood at 78.7 years, 1 ½ year less than the OECD average of 80.2 years. While life expectancy in the United States has increased by two years since 2000, this was less than the three year gain registered across OECD countries. This has widened the gap. The gap between the United States and leading countries has also widened. For example, the life expectancy for U.S. men in 2011 was more than 4 years shorter than in Switzerland (up from 3 years in 2000); for U.S. women, it was more than 5 years shorter than in Japan (fairly stable compared with 2000). The slower progress in life expectancy in the United States is due to gaps in health insurance coverage and proper primary care, poorer health-related behaviours and poor living conditions for a significant proportion of the U.S. population.

‌The United States has achieved remarkable progress in reducing the proportion of adults who smoke tobacco, with the rate of daily smokers coming down from 19% in 2000 to 14% in 2012. This is the lowest rate among OECD countries after Mexico, Sweden and Iceland.

At the same time, obesity rates among adults in the United States have increased greatly to reach 35.3% in 2012, up from 30.9% in 2000 (based on actual measures of height and weight). This is the highest rate among OECD countries. As is the case in several other countries, the obesity rate in the United States tends to be higher among disadvantaged socio-economic groups, especially in women. Mortality from diseases including cardiovascular diseases and many cancers increases progressively once people become obese.  

*Note: Countries are ranked in descending order of values.Annual growth of pharmaceutical spending (in real terms) since 2009, United States and OECD average

Country notes are available for all 34 OECD countries at www.oecd.org/health/healthdata. This website also includes an excel file with 50 key indicators.

OECD Health Statistics 2014 is available in OECD.Stat, the statistics portal for all OECD databases.

An embedable data visualisation for this publication is available at: www.compareyourcountry.org/health.
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For further information about the content, please contact Francesca Colombo (tel. + 33 1 45 24 93 60), Gaétan Lafortune (tel. +33 1 45 24 92 67) or David Morgan (tel. +33 1 45 24 76 09) in the OECD Health Division.




[1] A more detailed analysis of recent health spending trends in the United States in comparison with a number of high-spending countries will be published at 06:30pm ET today in The Lancet at www.thelancet.com.