Study highlights negatives of U.S. Headline

By Julie Deardorff MCT

America is one of the richest countries in the world. It’s also one of the worst industrialized places for kids to grow up and has a greater percentage of depressed people than impoverished, war-torn nations do, according to two major studies.

The first unflattering finding comes from a recent UNICEF child-welfare study that measured everything from the number of books in the home to infant-mortality rates, drinking and drug use and the percentage of children who eat meals with their families.

Of 21 wealthy nations surveyed, the U.S. ranked second to last. Only Britain was worse. Child well-being was highest in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, places that invest heavily in their children.

The problem isn’t just that, compared with the European countries, the U.S. lacks day-care services and has poorer health and preventive-care coverage, which has left 9 million children without health insurance.

America finished dead last in terms of infant-mortality rates, vaccinations, the percentage of newborns with low birth weights and deaths from accidental injuries.

We finished second to last when the researchers assessed a child’s diet, physical activity and weight, exposure to violence and bullying and the number of 15-year-olds who smoke and drink and have sex.

And, in what could explain why we’re among the most depressed people on Earth, according to a study of 14 nations conducted jointly by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School, we finished second to last when researchers examined relationships with family members and friends and family structure.

Children say they don’t spend time “just talking” to their parents. And they generally don’t find their peers “kind and helpful,” according to the study.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that 9.6 percent of Americans suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, according to the WHO/Harvard study, that binge eating or drinking is up or that children are heavily medicated for depression and attention-deficit disorder.