Europeans are living longer but health inequalities between men and women, countries and population segments are in some cases getting worse, Belgian e-media EUobserver analyses the information provided by the 2012 European health report made by the World Health Organisation.
“There are persistent and widespread inequities in health across the region, which in some cases are worsening,” said Ms Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement. The report spans 53 countries and includes around 900 million people.
The decrease in certain causes of death and efforts to address risk factors and socioeconomic conditions has boosted life expectancy by five years on average over the last 30 years for both sexes combined.
As people live longer, the number of those over 65 is estimated to reach a quarter of the entire population by 2050. Today, it is 15 percent.
Life expectancy gap
The gender age life expectancy gap increases in eastern European countries where women tend to live up to 12 years longer than men. The report says the larger difference in eastern Europe is mostly down to life style choices, noting the abuse of alcohol and tobacco as contributing factors that cut short life expectancies. The worst affected are Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
The least affected are Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, where the in-country life expectancy gap between the sexes is less than four years.
Leading cause of death
Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are responsible for 80 percent of deaths in Europe, with tobacco and alcohol abuse as leading health risk factors.
People under 65 who die are most likely to succumb to heart disease or strokes, followed by cancer. However, cancer has replaced cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of premature death in 28 countries.