The US is currently one of the rich world’s fastest-growing economies, but from a wellbeing perspective, the dissonance between the macro and micro pictures it offers is quite striking.
In particular, the US economy shows why focusing on GDP data to the detriment of more qualitative indicators can be so misleading when evaluating wellbeing.
Here is the reason why: The US currently has the most expensive healthcare system in the world: US health spending per person amounted to $10,224 in 2017, 28 percent higher than Switzerland, the next highest per capita spender, and 54 percent higher than Japan, one of the world’s “healthiest” nations.
Healthcare costs contribute to the GDP’s absolute and relative performance but tell us next to nothing in terms of how “well” a country is.
New CDC data shows that the health troubles that afflict the US will not only persist, but will increase in the coming years, thus contributing to the better than average GDP performance of the US economy, but also inflicting considerable damage in terms of overall wellbeing.
According to the CDC, obesity rates will continue to increase as well as the costs of the opioid crisis. Its data shows that 18 percent of US children and roughly 40 percent of adults are now obese, projecting that these percentages will increase, translating into rising rates of Type 2 diabetes and various heart diseases.
As a rule of thumb, having a diabetic condition doubles a person’s lifetime healthcare cost—it currently costs in the US a total of $245 billion per year. Furthermore, as the price of insulin continues to increase, many patients can’t afford the treatment, compounding issues of physical wellness with a problem of financial wellness.
The negative example of the US gives us one further reason to argue that an increasing number of countries will start promoting policies conducive to greater subjective wellbeing, not necessarily policies that pursue GDP growth to the detriment of everything else. New Zealand paved the way with its “Wellbeing Budget 2019.” Others will follow, with wellness/wellbeing becoming a centerpiece of policy-making.