“More effective prevention and quality care are needed to achieve further gains in population health and reduce health inequalities in EU countries.” This is the key finding of the OECD’s report Health at a Glance: Europe 2016. Though life expectancy rose from 74.2 years in 1990 to 80.9 years in 2014, people in Western European countries continue to live longer, on average, than those in Central and Eastern European countries. Meanwhile, within countries, there are inequalities between people with higher levels of education and income and the more disadvantaged.
Unsurprisingly, France has one of the highest rates of smoking, with 22.4% of adults being daily smokers. Others, like myself, might find that figure surprisingly low. In the UK, 19% of adults are regular smokers. Along with Spain (23%), it is one of the countries to have reduced the smoking rate most drastically since 2000.
What is particularly concerning from France’s perspective is the smoking rate among teenagers, of whom one fifth smoke at least once a week – the European average is one in seven. Indeed, one of the main differences I have noticed between my home and host countries is that smoking is clearly on the decline among young Brits, whereas in France that is not the case – there is nothing to suggest that young people smoke any less than their parents or grandparents.
Contrary to popular opinion, the report also reveals the French to be heavier drinkers than the Brits. The French drink on average 11.5 litres of pure alcohol per year, per person, whereas the British drink just 9.4 litres. This is not the first report to produce such results; similar data was released last year. But of course, figures alone don’t account for drinking culture; nobody can argue with the fact that the UK has a serious binge problem.
Another warning sign for the UK is obesity; 20.1% of adults are obese, a rate which is far higher than that of any other EU country. While just 15.3% of French adults are obese, that number has shot up since 2000 and there is a lot of room for improvement. For example, only 57.6% of French adults eat vegetables on a daily basis, in comparison to 65.7% of adults in the UK.
Some harsh truths are reiterated in this report and the concise summary is well worth a read.