If health means wealth, as the adage has it, then America’s economic future looks grim.

Traditionally, the U.S. has enjoyed a health premium. In the colonial era, American men were on average two to three inches taller than Europeans, according to military records, a fact that fascinates historical demographers because height is correlated with longevity, cognitive development and work capacity.

Today, a premium is turning into a deficit. American men are shorter on average than Northern European men, and the gap is getting bigger. Six in 10 Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition and 4 in 10 suffer from two. "America is a sick society,” says William Galston in the Wall Street Journal. "Literally.”