WHO: Good health in Europe

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Health in Europe is developing positively

The health of the population in Europe continues to develop extremely positively, according to the current European Health Report 2012 of the World Health Organization (WHO). Life expectancy is rising, child mortality is extremely low in global comparison and infectious diseases have largely lost their fear in Europe.

The World Health Organization publishes a report on health in Europe every three years. According to the WHO, this takes into account the "health of almost 900 million people" from "53 countries in the European region" and shows a particularly gratifying development, particularly with regard to the development of life expectancy. Since 1980 this has increased by five years in the countries concerned. The average life expectancy for men and women today is around 76 years. Women reach an average age of 80 years, men of 72.5 years. The continued decline in child mortality is particularly encouraging. There are clear differences between the individual countries, but overall the development of health in Europe is quite positive.

Life expectancy in Europe increases The European Health Report 2012 takes into account "demographic trends, life expectancy, mortality, causes of death, disease burden, risk factors and social determinants", according to the WHO communication. The “inequalities in the health sector, including health systems” are also reflected in the current report. The national comparison had shown that despite the generally positive development in Europe, some countries are significantly worse off than the rest. For example, life expectancy in the eastern countries, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus is significantly behind most of the countries examined. The same applies to Montenegro. The national and regional differences result in "a mosaic of health situations", which represents a considerable challenge for politics, the WHO explains. In addition, the population in Europe is massively aging. According to the WHO, 25 percent of the population will be older than 65 by 2050.

Falling child mortality rates Child mortality rates have been extremely encouraging for decades. According to the WHO, this dropped again by 53 percent between 1990 and 2010. Significant national differences can also be observed here, but overall the trend is extremely positive. Only 7.3 out of 1,000 live births die in Europe today.

Increase in cancer rates According to the WHO report, there is a worrying development in cancer rates. For example, while infectious diseases have been declining for years (for example, 30 percent fewer deaths from tuberculosis between 1990 and 2010), new cancer cases have increased by 35 percent since the mid-1980s. However, cancer mortality decreased by ten percent over the same period. Cancer has now replaced cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in 28 of the 53 European countries considered.

Challenge for European health policy Overall, diseases of the cardiovascular system (e.g. hardening of the arteries, coronary artery disease and, as a result, a heart attack) are responsible for almost 50 percent of deaths in the European countries and thus continue to be the leading cause of death. Cancer accounts for around 20 percent of deaths, making it the second leading cause of death in Europe. As one of the greatest health challenges in Europe, the WHO does not describe cancer or cardiovascular diseases, but diabetes, because of their direct and indirect effects on health. The experts also see the still relatively high consumption of alcohol and tobacco as a significant risk to the health of Europeans. (fp)

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