Canadians live about three years longer and are healthier than Americans, and the lack of universal health care in the United States may be a factor, researchers say.
In a study published in BioMed Central's journal Population Health Metrics they said Canadians can expect to live until 79.7 years of age, versus 77.2 years for Americans.
A healthy 19-year-old Canadian can expect to have 52 more years of perfect health versus 49.3 more years for Americans.
"Canada and the U.S. share a common border and enjoy very similar standards of living, yet life expectancy in Canada is higher than in the U.S.," said David Feeny, of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, and a co-author of the study.
"There are two distinct potential explanations for the gap: differences in access to health care and in the prevalence of poverty."
Canadians have a universal healthcare service, which is free at the point of care, whereas Americans' access to health insurance is usually based on employment, income through Medicaid, or age through Medicare, and not universal, according to the study.
Healthcare expenditures also have been higher in the United States than in Canada since the 1970s.
The findings are based on telephone interviews of 8,688 white Canadians and Americans, to account for the impact of slavery and racial disparities on health.
The interviews were conducted in 2002 and 2003 during the first joint survey by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics to provide fully comparable data.
"This data was very high quality, consistent and comparable," Feeny said.
Researchers may try to conduct another survey to update new developments in light of the recent healthcare reform measures in the United States, he added.