One of lowest health spends in western Europe but healthy diet sees Irish live longer

The Irish appear to have discovered an unusual secret to living longer according to a comprehensive study of European countries health systems.

The ‘Health at a Glance’ report produced by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows over the past two decades Irish people have increased their life-span by more than any other EU nationality, living almost five years longer than the previous generation.

This despite the fact that the Government spends less of its budget on health services than almost all other western European countries.

They are also more likely to maintain their good health longer, despite women living to an average age of 83 years and men 78 years.

People are feeling well too as more than 80% when asked about their health said they felt either good or very good.

The Irish eat a healthy diet as close to 100% of those surveyed said they eat vegetables daily — the highest in the EU. Close to 80% said they had daily fruit — only the Italian and Maltese eat more.

But despite this healthy diet 23% of the population are rated as obese, the highest after Hungary and Britain, with the highest rate of hospital admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after Hungary.

The country has among the fewest doctors per head of population and Irish people visit their doctor much less, with the fourth lowest number of consultations a year.

Spending on health has been cut during the crisis and now Ireland spends less than the ‘old’ 15 member states on health services, except Luxembourg, at 8.9% of GDP, just a shade above the EU average.

This compares to 11.8% spent by the Netherlands and 11.3% by Germany.

Independent MEP Nessa Childers said the figures show that spending should not be cut any further, and instead the Government should be reinvesting in health services.

“I consider health to be a right and not a privilege. Our GPs are under unacceptable pressure and failure to have proper access to a public health system makes poor economic sense as the resulting burden of illness will cost the State a great deal,”she warned.

Both Germany and Ireland spend about €500 per person on medicines, despite the fact that in Germany 80% of medicines are of the cheaper generic brands while in Ireland it is just 20%.

The troika has been pushing the State to change over to generics, saying there are big savings to be made.

Ms Childers said: “The pharmaceutical situation has yet to be solved and the troika would do well do continue putting pressure on us regarding this instead.”

THE REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

Full report findings can be found here


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