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Men are less healthy than women, poll says

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ATLANTA — U.S. men are more likely to be smokers, "binge" drinkers or overweight than women, and less likely to have health insurance or wear seat belts, federal health experts said last week.

The differences between men and women were detailed by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using statistics from telephone surveys of tens of thousands of adults in 1996 and 1997.

The CDC said that 62.2 percent of men and 44.5 percent of women said they were overweight in 1997. Experts said being overweight increased the risk of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

"We have many more men who are likely to be overweight than women," said Deborah Holtzman, of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, who added that the increasing numbers of obese and overweight American adults was "a huge problem."

Researchers said 25.3 percent of men were smokers, compared with 21.1 percent of women. The CDC noted that cigarette smoking was a major cause of illness and death in the United States.

Men were more than three times as likely as women to have engaged in binge drinking during the past month, defined by the government as having at least five drinks on one occasion. More than 22 percent of men were binge drinkers, researchers said.

Men were almost seven times as likely as women to report chronic drinking, or having 60 or more alcoholic beverages during the previous month, the CDC said. More than 5 percent of men were chronic drinkers, the study found.

The survey also found that men were more than three times as likely as women to report drinking and driving. The CDC said 74.8 percent of women and 61.9 percent of men said they always wore a seat belt. About 15.2 percent of men said they had no health insurance, compared with 13.5 percent of women.