Av­er­age life­span in EU tops 80: Study

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

The av­er­age life­span of peo­ple in the EU has topped 80 for the first time, but pre­ventable ill­nesses caused by smok­ing, al­co­hol and obesity are tak­ing a huge toll, a study said yes­ter­day.

Gains were un­even as peo­ple in western Euro­pean Union coun­tries lived more than eight years longer on av­er­age than peo­ple in cen­tral and eastern coun­tries, said the re­port by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the OECD. “More needs to be done to re­duce in­equal­i­ties,” said An­gel Gur­ria, head of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment as he launched the re­port in Brus­sels.

The study said life ex­pectancy across the 28-na­tion bloc has risen from 74.2 years in 1990 to 80.9 years in 2014 — the last year for which data were avail­able-top­ping 80 for the first time. But it warned that chronic dis­eases and re­lated risk fac­torsin­clud­ing obesity, smok­ing, and heavy drink­ing-were tak­ing a heavy toll on Euro­pean so­ci­eties.

More than 550,000 peo­ple of work­ing age died pre­ma­turely across the bloc each year from heart at­tacks, strokes, di­a­betes, can­cer and res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases. “This rep­re­sents a loss of about 3.4 mil­lion po­ten­tial pro­duc­tive life years,” the re­port said. Mean­while 16 per­cent of adults are obese, up from 11 per­cent in 2000, while one in five peo­ple still smoked and heavy al­co­hol drinkers were more likely not to have a job than light to mod­er­ate drinkers.

In to­tal, around 50 mil­lion EU ci­ti­zens suf­fer from two or more chronic ill­nesses, most over 65. “It shows that in the EU many peo­ple die ev­ery year from po­ten­tially avoid­able dis­eases linked to risk fac­tors such as smok­ing or obesity,” said Euro­pean health com­mis­sioner Vyte­nis An­driukaitis.

These dis­eases are a drain on the strug­gling Euro­pean econ­omy too, the re­port says, with sick leave and dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits ac­count­ing for 1.7 per­cent of GDP in EU coun­tries-more than the amount spent on un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits.

Peo­ple aged 50-59 who are suf­fer­ing from se­vere de­pres­sion were more than twice as likely to leave the la­bor mar­ket early, it added. Europe is also age­ing fast, the re­port says. The over-65s have risen from less than 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in 1980 to nearly 20 per­cent in 2015 and could reach nearly 30 per­cent in 2060. — AFP

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