The United States is not the only industrial nation where people are displeased with the health care system, although they seem unhappier here than in any other developed country, according to a survey of 10 industrial nations.

The survey shows a low level of satisfaction with the health system not only in the United States but in five other nations, all of which have national health insurance, according to an article in the latest issue of Health Affairs magazine.

The surveys by the Louis Harris polling organization with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute for the Future indicate that in the six countries, less than two-fifths of the population agreed that the system was working well and needed only minor repairs.

In the United States only 10 percent assented to this proposition, in Italy only 12 percent, and only 27 percent to 34 percent in Britain, Japan, Sweden and Australia. Of these six, all but the United States have national health plans.

Favorable responses were higher in France, West Germany, the Netherlands and Canada, ranging from 41 percent to 56 percent.

Based on these figures, the article's authors -- Robert J. Blendon and Karen Donelan of Harvard, Harris's Robert Leitman and the institute's Ian Morrison -- concluded that Americans like their system least and Canadians like theirs most.

The authors attributed relative happiness in France, West Germany, the Netherlands and Canada to the relatively high levels of spending on health care (although not as high as the United States), resulting in access to sophisticated technology, greater choice of doctors and less waiting time and travel time to health facilities.

But high spending, broad technology and variety of doctors do not produce the same satisfaction in the United States, the authors note. "It has the highest level of spending per person {$2,051, with Canada second at $1,483} and reports the lowest level of satisfaction."

"Why are Americans so much more disaffected with their health care system than citizens of other countries?" the authors asked.

The authors say the answer lies outside things health policy analysts typically worry about, such as the fact that the United States spends a higher proportion of its gross national product (11 percent) on health than any other developed nation.

Nor do they seem dissatisfied with their doctors and hospitals: "In 1990, only 6 percent of the public reported the quality of medical care they received was not adequate, while 93 percent responded they considered their care to be of good quality." The answer, the authors say, seems to lie in insecurity about whether Americans will continue to enjoy unbroken health insurance coverage with adequate benefits. The authors said Americans fear losing coverage and being unable to buy new insurance when they leave a job. "This phenomenon is almost nonexistent" in nations where the national health system guarantees continuous coverage.

Americans, the authors say, also fear reductions by employers in the scope of health coverage and high out-of-pocket costs when hit with a serious illness.