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New WHO report reveals unequal improvements in health in Europe

While the overall level of health across the WHO European Region has clearly improved, European health statistics show inequities within and between countries, according to a new WHO report. The report also points to the role that environmental factors play in disease.

The European health report, which is published every three years, calls for measurements of well-being as a marker of progress. The recent report reveals that although people are living longer and healthier lives due mainly to decreases in certain causes of death and efforts to address risk factors, major inequities in life expectancy are found between men and women, between countries and between population groups. For example, life expectancy for women reached an average of 80 years in 2010, while that for men was 72.5 years. Lifestyle and occupational differences largely explain this gap.

Non – communicable diseases (NCDs) account for the largest number of deaths at 80%. Diseases related to the circulatory system such as heart diseases and strokes account for nearly 50% of all deaths, followed by cancer, causing around 20% of deaths.

The report also highlights how cancer has replaced cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of premature death (before the age of 65) in 28 of the 53 countries in the European Region. Environmental factors are estimated to be responsible for 13–20% of the burden of disease in Europe. They contribute significantly to increased risks for a number of non-communicable, chronic diseases, notably cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Evidence indicates that air pollution accounts for, on average, eight months – and more than two years in the most polluted cities – of life lost.

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Last updated on 10 April 2013

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