Young people in Europe may not live as long as their grandparents, if current rates of smoking and drinking continue.
The latest European health report from the World Health Organisation shows that while life expectancy is increasing in Europe, it also has the highest levels of tobacco and alcohol consumption in the world.
“These risks, combined with rising obesity, could mean that life expectancy falls in future generations,” the report states.
Also, the gap in life expectancy at birth, between countries, is more than 10 years, with Israel and Switzerland topping the chart for longevity. The life expectancy in Switzerland, for a man, is 80.4 years and 85 for a woman. In Israel, it is also 80.4 years for a man, but for a woman it is 84.1.
For Ireland, the life expectancy for a man is 78.5 and 83 for a woman, which is more than the regional average, of 73.1 years for a man and 80.3 for a woman.
While 30% of the population in Europe still smokes, the greatest successes in reducing tobacco use have occurred in Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine.
The report adds that policy intervention on alcohol consumption, such as controlling its availability and pricing, are also slowly bearing fruit.
About 11 litres of pure alcohol is drunk per person each year in the 53 member states in the European region. However, the average is for 2012 and many countries, including Ireland, are not listed.
In 2010, Ireland had the sixth-highest alcohol consumption rate, at almost 12 litres, but it was highest in Belarus, in Eastern Europe, at 14.4 litres.
The report also shows that Europe is on track to achieve a relative reduction in premature mortality, of 1.5% annually until 2020.
This means the number of people whose lives are cut short by cardiovascular disease, such as cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, is steadily declining. The rate of decline for cardiovascular diseases is the fastest.
However, the number of overweight people is continuing to increase — it has increased from 58.3% of people in Ireland, in 2010, to 60.3%, in 2014.
The overweight rate is highest in Albania, at 67%, and lowest in Tajikistan, at 45%.
The WHO is concerned that while the war against alcohol and smoking is being won, the war against obesity is being lost.
The infant mortality rate has been falling steadily and has more than halved over the last two decades, reaching historically low levels.
A challenge, however, is the 10-fold difference that exists between countries with the highest and lowest levels.
Ireland is ranked 21st, at less than five infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Finland has the lowest rate, at around two per 1,000, while Kyrgyzstan has around 22.
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