Lifespans in U.S. on the decline despite increases in healthcare spending

When I was in Southeast Asia in the 1970s, I learned that high-tech medicine isn’t usually the answer to better health for more people. And my time there inspired me to find ways to incorporate low-tech, safe, effective, natural approaches into mainstream western medicine.

In fact, I just finished the 6th edition of my basic medical textbook Fundamentals of Complementary/Alternative & Integrative Medicine. It was the first U.S. medical textbook on the topic and has been continuously in print for more than 20 years.

In the book, I cover the globe, surveying healing traditions found on six continents. And upon its completion last month, I found myself reflecting back on how dramatically the American view of healthcare has changed over the last two decades.

I remember when I first went to Southeast Asia in the 1970s, most westerners believed that indigenous people didn’t have access to healthcare and that they were ignorant of the biological facts — as well as prevention and treatment methods —  for health and illnesses.

The World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other government and private “assistance” organizations promoted these ridiculous ideas.

Health experts in the West also discussed initiating a “technology transfer” to developing countries. Which meant exporting high-tech, biomedical devices, drugs, and procedures to “deprived” countries.

Boy, were they wrong…

Don’t want it, don’t need it

What I found in Asia really opened my eyes. The locals had built ways of staying healthy into their cultures. They made use of local medicinal plants. And they called upon indigenous healers to provide healthcare in their communities.

When westerners said the indigenous people “didn’t have healthcare,” it really meant they didn’t have high-tech, expensive, western medicine.

Of course, most westerners assumed the indigenous people didn’t have these commodities because they couldn’t afford it. And while that was true, when I spent time there, I learned they didn’t really want, or couldn’t really use, it either.

In the West, we’re now witnessing a “reverse technology transfer,” where more people are rejecting expensive, dangerous high-tech drugs and procedures. Instead, they’re embracing the kind of natural approaches that have formed the cornerstone of healthcare for about 90 percent of the world’s peoples for centuries.

That’s why I include a wealth of natural approaches in my Daily Dispatch and Insiders’ Cures newsletter. I strive to educate and provide a world of alternative health options to my tens of thousands of readers just like you.

To move forward, we need to find the right balance between western, high-tech medicine and natural, botanical remedies. Western medicine offers advantages in certain circumstances, but certainly not always. The same can be said of natural healing.

I find true “complementary” medicine means having the ability to choose the kind of healthcare that is right for you as an individual. And sometimes that means foregoing mainstream medicine…

When less is more

A recent study — which observed 30 countries over three decades — found that the more money spent on healthcare generally resulted in better overall health and longevity. But there were two major exceptions…

The first exception is happening right now in the U.S.

Expenditures on healthcare in the U.S. increased from 5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1960 to 17 percent in 2014, pushing mortality rates for everyone in the U.S. lower and lower — until 2014.

At that point, as I recently reported, mortality rates among white, middle-class Americans started to shoot back up, despite continued increases in healthcare spending — it’s so bad, that it’s raising the overall mortality rate for all Americans.

The second exception to the rule has to do with how the money is spent…

Overall, the study linked spending more money on pharmaceutical drugs with negative health outcomes. Of course, many individual studies show negative health effects of using more prescription drugs, as I’ve reported for years. However, this was the first study to document how the expansion of big pharma worldwide has resulted in an overall health decline.

It’s no surprise that taking more drugs doesn’t improve health outcomes.

In fact, I’ve told you a few times about a Harvard study led by my colleague formerly at UPenn (now at Harvard), Dr. Donald Light, showing the safety profile of new drugs is getting worse and worse. Dr. Light’s study followed the same period as the new study I’m reporting on today.

He found that over the past three decades, 50 percent of new drugs were less effective — and 90 percent were less safe — than the drugs they were meant to replace.

By this measure, we’d be better off if big pharma just stopped creating new drugs. There is nothing more dangerous to patients than new drugs in the hands of over-specialized doctors…

The disastrous effects from more specialists and newer drugs

The new study found that access to specialized medicine — such as cardiologists, endocrinologists, and neurologists — generally benefitted patients when truly needed.

But when specialized treatments and over-specialized doctors combined with more spending on drugs, it resulted in negative health outcomes.

This finding doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve been reporting on the problem of specialists for years. For example, cardiologists tend to push blood sugar and blood pressure medications. But primary care and general internal medicine doctors are relaxing the use of drugs for most people based on the scientific evidence.

In the end, I encourage you to search for a doctor willing to think outside the big pharma playbook.

As for my promise to you, I’ll continue to bring you original thoughts, connections, and alternative solutions to today’s biggest health problems. The real solutions may not deliver quick, instant fixes. But they’re safe, effective alternatives to keep you healthy and happy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond!

You can learn all about the simple, natural strategies for extending your longevity in my protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” If you’d just like to learn more, or enroll today, simply click here.


“Does Medical Expansion Improve Population Health?” Journal of Health and Social Behavior March 2018; 59(1): 113-132