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A Comparison of Biological Risk Factors in Two Populations: The United States and Japan


  • Eileen M. Crimmins
  • Sarinnapha Vasunilashorn
  • Jung Ki Kim
  • Aaron Hagedorn
  • Yasuhiko Saito


Life expectancy is higher in Japan than in the United States. We compared the prevalence of clinically recognized risk factors in the two countries to explore the possibility that differences in these likely precursors to disease and death are linked to the paths to higher mortality for Americans. We found that American men and women have higher levels of total biological risk than the Japanese, particularly for risk factors included in the metabolic syndrome. A significant difference between the two countries is the higher prevalence of overweight among Americans. On the other hand, measured blood pressure appears more favorable among Americans. A larger proportion of Americans use prescription drugs, which results in lowered levels of measured biological risk. There are large differences in the prevalence of a number of risk factors between American and Japanese women less than age 40; this could mean that Americans develop biological risk earlier in life or that the differences are growing larger in more recent cohorts.

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  • Eileen M. Crimmins & Sarinnapha Vasunilashorn & Jung Ki Kim & Aaron Hagedorn & Yasuhiko Saito, 2008. "A Comparison of Biological Risk Factors in Two Populations: The United States and Japan," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(3), pages 457-482, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:34:y:2008:i:3:p:457-482
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2008.00232.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David A. Wise & Naohiro Yashiro, 2006. "Health Care Issues in the United States and Japan," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise06-1, July.
    2. David A. Wise, 2006. "Introduction to "Health Care Issues in the United States and Japan"," NBER Chapters, in: Health Care Issues in the United States and Japan, pages 1-16, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Seeman, Teresa E. & Crimmins, Eileen & Huang, Mei-Hua & Singer, Burton & Bucur, Alexander & Gruenewald, Tara & Berkman, Lisa F. & Reuben, David B., 2004. "Cumulative biological risk and socio-economic differences in mortality: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(10), pages 1985-1997, May.
    4. Seeman, Teresa & Glei, Dana & Goldman, Noreen & Weinstein, Maxine & Singer, Burt & Lin, Yu-Hsuan, 2004. "Social relationships and allostatic load in Taiwanese elderly and near elderly," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(11), pages 2245-2257, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heller, Peter S., 2016. "The challenge of an aged and shrinking population: Lessons to be drawn from Japan’s experience," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 8(C), pages 85-93.

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