Americans are fat, stressed, and unhealthy

The World Economic Forum, sponsors of the exclusive, c-level talkfest held every year in Switzerland, knows what is wrong with us Americans.

We are fat. We are stressed. We are on the verge of a coronary.

So says the forum’s new Human Capital Index, which rates the United States 16th globally in how well it harnesses the power of its people. The nation gets good scores for education and opportunity. But the disappointing overall outcome is because of things like “non-communicable diseases.”

Before you holler “gross” and click elsewhere, these are non-communicable ailments – things like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The United States ranks 112th out of 122, for example, on the obesity scale, and similarly low when it comes to stress. The overall “Health and Wellness” score places the United States 43rd out of the countries studied, with a particularly poor rating for the “business impact” of disease overall (including the communicable type, where we are 65thgross!).

The index is the newest study from the forum. In the proud tradition of think tank indices, small, homogenous European nations generally do best – them and Singapore – while large, diverse developed nations generally come next, with an occasional outlier like Qatar that has a lot of money and a reasonably progressive royal family. The rest of the world falls toward the bottom in random array. Yemen is last.

So an hour on the treadmill could do a lot for the GDP.

That, and wash your hands.

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Dylan Matthews · October 1, 2013