Does America Need More Neighborhood Pubs?

A recent comparison of the mental and physical health of Americans and Britons raises some intriguing questions. Consider these data points:

  • Americans spend 2.5 more on health care than do Brits – yet have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.
  • The richest, healthiest Americans are as sick as the poorest Brits.
  • Americans work far longer than Brits (and other Europeans), and are more likely to hold two jobs – virtually unheard of in Britain.

In searching for explanations, the focus goes to the fact that Americans seem to value wealth and work over social connections, in the view of a British epidemiology team, led by Sir Michael Marmot at the University College London Medical School. One reason for this, of course, can be seen in the lack of social safety nets Americans face. Compare Britain, which like most European countries, has a far more humane social system: in England, a student might pay about $3,000 a year for a university education (and in other European countries the government pays the whole thing); everyone who retires in Britain gets both a company and a government pension; health care is free. Americans, by contrast, live in fear of losing health care, not having enough money to retire on, or huge education bills.

Even among the well-to-do, contentment remains elusive: No matter how much people earn, their desires grow with their earning power. This insatiable pleasure-seeking has been called by Daniel Kahneman the “hedonic treadmill,” meaning that no matter what you have now, the yearning for more will grow proportionately – keeping you on an endless spending spree. Intriguingly, the country with highest rates of contentment worldwide is Denmark – whose people also have the lowest expectations for material comforts.
Add to America’s cultural malaise the fact that our networks of friends seems to be shrinking. Between 1985 and 2005, the average number of confidantes people reported dropped from three to two. By contrast, British and other European cultures place more importance on social connections than money. In Britain, for instance, every neighborhood has a pub, a place where neighbors go most nights to get together. By contrast, Americans disappear into their homes, doors locked.

This shrinking of personal contact may itself take a health toll. Carnegie Mellon psychologist Sheldon Cohen has found the more personal relationships a person has, the more healthy they are.

17 thoughts on “Does America Need More Neighborhood Pubs?

  1. Modern Americans display success. Financial success brings on one kind of display — the house, the car, the better cut of the suit, etc. Pumping iron brings on another. And WalMart (or perhaps it is China) enables even the unsuccessful their display. As long as we parade our success we doom our children to perpetuate the situation.

  2. The reasons are clear to everyone who lives outside America.
    Your people are poorly educated and oppressed by the industrial military complex and corporate power stranglehold that is radically unbalanced with the human rights of your own citizens. People that are in prison and have no opportunity for unbiased education…have no chance to succeed.

    This brings into question the value of leadership education when we see it coming to us from an American Perspective. What little basic education that is provided to your people is at best weak, insular indoctrination. What do they know of the world. Thinking themselves better and better off. The Russians were smart enough to know they were being lied to!

    Your people face an endless onslaught of corporate propaganda and flag waving that would make Hitler envious. He managed to align the goals of his people toward the task of conquering nations and exterminating races. Your corporate rulership has used its brainwashing to kill its own people. “Proud” to create a nation of fat, diabetic idiots eating sugar coated shit and believing they are sitting on top of the world.

    The rest of the world has a hard time finding any logic, reason, compassion, or vision in American leadership. America sits on top of a precipice…. Leadership….who are you fooling!

  3. Reading this being an a college student in America really strikes a cord in my heart because it is exactly what I’ve been thinking and it makes it hard to take an exam about some useless class when I know there are much greater needs in America. Its a system in which we have laws that are taking money from the working pockets when McDonalds and other large cooporations are allowed to sell food that is clearly a helping factor contributing to obesity and heart disease which causes healthcare system to rise to unaffordable rates and continues down the line. A huge step in the bettering of America is definatley out diet and there should be some responsibllity and legal issues to things that are clearly harming America even thought it may not have been known at the point in time when they opened. I’m representing a new change in America and its needs if anyone is interested contact me a 22ndCenturyNutrition to fight the cause.

  4. Just to clarify a point – everyone in Britain does NOT have a company and state pension! It depends on personal circunstances. Due to changes few people have good compnay pension schemes and government pensions rely on you National Insurance contributions. For women who have career breaks to raise their children and for people caring for relatives this often mens little or no pension. Please don’t think all pensioners in Britain are better off!

  5. I find these words so relevant. Its not only the physical obesity that Americans suffer from, they have what can be called obese minds. Lots and lots of blubber in their thinking which probably comes from the vicious intentions of the select media and multinational groups who are controlling the thinking and behavioral patterns this otherwise great nation.
    They want you to be like this, and kill innocent people around the world through your stupidity!

  6. f hay has it right – how warped a sense of the British social picture this study seems to have. The pension comment is spot on, and how anyone thinks that our students only spend the equivalent of GBP1500 per year for their education is beyond me. That hasn’t been the case since before I was at university, tuition fees and living expenses combined make it probably twice or three times that much, totalling a final debt of around GBP20-25k depending on the length of study.
    British pubs are not all cosy little places for the well-heeled to congregate, I’m not sure about Sir Michael Marmot’s local, but a lot of pubs in my area are places for the younger to harrass the older, and get blind drunk in the process. I’m sure my student drinking days never made me this intimidating.

    My experience of Americans in the workplace is that they expect a lot (fine, I’m up for a challenge), sometimes too much, but even if those expectations are met it is never good enough.

    Having said that, the individuals I have met, when outside their workplace, are very friendly and welcoming when you are on their “patch”.

    I’m a generally contented cheerful sort of gal, however supposedly positive, but inaccurate, comparisons of my country to one which is imposing its outsize ego on the rest of us by an organisation which should know better is disconcerting to say the least.

  7. Thanks to Mr Hay for pointing out that things are not quite as rosy in England as you paint them. The abolition of student grants means our students now leave college in massive debt and are unable to buy a home for many years. Despite massive tax hikes, our public hospitals are filthy, nursing staff and doctors are overworked and underpaid and just about everyone would opt for private hospital care if they could afford it. The latest news is that cancer patients who pay for additional drug treatment get all of their “free” care removed and are having to sell their homes. Company pension schemes are closing, fast, and most of us will live on a $150 a week government pension if we’re lucky. Our pubs are shutting at an alarming rate due to the smoking ban, and we live in a “suspect citizen” nanny state with more CCTV per head than anywhere else in the world. Its true we are following the same hedonistic capitalist path as the US – its just that our gas costs $12 a gallon.

  8. Wow! I think it’s time I moved as the parts of Britain I have lived in for the past 30+ years seem a bit different to that described here. Maybe it’s a class thing and whatever class I belong to seems is missing out?

    Social interaction on it’s own does not seem to make for a healthy person. I would agree that social interaction is important in physical and mental health but I would also suggest that maybe it is our life balance that is fundementally changing our health in the US and Europe. A balanced well rounded person should be a happy healthy person and there appear to be fewer of them around than ever.

  9. Pingback: Lady 's Park
  10. hay has it right – how warped a sense of the British social picture this study seems to have. The pension comment is spot on, and how anyone thinks that our students only spend the equivalent of GBP1500 per year for their education is beyond me. That hasn’t been the case since before I was at university, tuition fees and living expenses combined make it probably twice or three times that much, totalling a final debt of around GBP20-25k depending on the length of study.
    British pubs are not all cosy little places for the well-heeled to congregate, I’m not sure about Sir Michael Marmot’s local, but a lot of pubs in my area are places for the younger to harrass the older, and get blind drunk in the process. I’m sure my student drinking days never made me this intimidating.

    ???????
    ???????

  11. Social interaction on it’s own does not seem to make for a healthy person. I would agree that social interaction is important in physical and mental health but I would also suggest that maybe it is our life balance that is fundementally changing our health in the US and Europe. A balanced well rounded person should be a happy healthy person and there appear to be fewer of them around than ever.

    ??? ??????
    ??? ???????
    ?????
    ??????

  12. Yes PUBS are changing, in the UK, they are more lunch time gathering for the pensioners. Fact is the pensioner are spending their money, this was,in Pubs and have been a boon to the establishments.
    We at least once a week go for our Pub Lunch (Crawl) and this for the social contact and the standard of the food. Holidays can well be spent doing “a pub lunch tour” in different areas; then home to our own bed at night.
    Yes at nights the town bars are taken over by the likes of my grandchildren. BUT if I do enter I am greeted or ignored. Never interfered with. No different as I behaved in the 1940/50s

  13. Just read the comments about the NHS, re:- the healh system in the UK.
    No; most people get their treatment through the NHS. As for payment; if they are daft enough to spend out, well and good, this is a small number. My local GP will come out to visit me, if I ask, or not. Lovely Pratice Nurses, lovely hospital staff. Many new buildings. No I do not have the same as in the U.S. and the wealthy people do receive greater choice, BUT when I spent time in a middle class home in Washington DC USA a story went that a gun was ready if a friend went into a the Public Mental Helth hospital. OK a ‘pinch of salt’ but hey come on, its money that talks. The standard is high in the NHS. I,ve just come out of hospital, this after a quick diagnosis. A shared ward, at one spell a mix ward and glad for the company. My opp. was quick and I was out within three days. Now I have regulary treatment. This can be done ‘at home’ if I wanted.!!!
    The somewhat comical term “Socialised Medicine” was used in the States, even by people who have to struggle to pay for the simplest needs.
    Lets hope the New attitude, the people of America are showing, get their real health system.

  14. It’s not just the UK. All of the industrialized countries get better healthcare outcomes for less healthcare expenditures than Americans do. The UK has the National Health Service, which is a system like our Veterans Administration, except that it covers everything for everyone.

    The NHS is far more cost-effective than the American medical system for two reasons. First, it doesn’t let private health insurance companies skim 25% or more off the top of the health care expenditures. Second, the NHS actually hires and supervises the doctors, managing them in ways that encourage them to provide better preventive care.

    Basically, people in the UK are healthier, despite lower per capita expenditures on healthcare, because they can go to the doctor whenever they like, without cost, and because the doctors are under pressure to provide better preventive care. Why grasp at vague abstractions like “contentment” when Occam’s razor suggests that we should look at the simple and obvious tangible explanations first?

    I’ve always been skeptical about the use of “emotional intelligence” to explain social phenomena. It initially struck me as a post hoc attempt to explain away evidence of social inequality, after it turned out that the Nietzchean supermen ruling over us didn’t necessarily score better than the rest of us on their precious IQ tests. Therefore, I’d expect “emotional intelligence” to be trotted out to support other kinds of right-wing causes, as well. So I’m not surprised to see it used to undermine support for healthcare reform–in an indirect, plausibly deniable way, of course.

    If the British are healthier and live longer than Americans while spending far less money on healthcare, it must be because of their better “emotional intelligence.” (Or maybe their better food!) We can’t possibly allow ourselves to imagine that they enjoy better health at lower cost because of their “socialized medicine.” That would be thoughtcrime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *