March 22, 2011

Despite Obesity Epidemic, Europeans Living Longer

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ We've heard again and again about the obesity epidemic, but according to this analysis of trends over the last 40 years, life expectancy in Europe is on the rise, with people in Britain reaching an older age than those living in the U.S.

These findings oppose the belief that the rising life expectancy trend in high income countries may be coming to an end in the face of health problems arising from obesity.

Epidemiologist and population health expert Professor David Leon, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, points out that in the last five years most European countries have been going in a positive direction for the first time in decades "“ although the gap between East and West remains entrenched.

"But while the European experience since 1980 underlines the centrality of the social, political and economic determinants of health, many intriguing and important questions remain unanswered about the drivers of these extraordinary trends," Leon was quoted as saying.

According to Prof Leon, deaths from cardiovascular disease in the UK have seen "some of the largest and most rapid falls of any Western European country, partly due to improvements in treatment as well as reductions in smoking and other risk factors." This has a lot to do with the increasing life expectancy.

Despite spending more per capita on health care than any other country in the world, the US is at the same level as the lowest of any Western European country (Portugal for males and Denmark for females), while the rate for women is increasing at a much slower pace than Western Europe.

In 2007, life expectancy in the US was 78 years compared to 80 in the UK.
"This simple observation once again underlines that GDP and health care expenditure per capita are not good predictors of population health within high income countries," Prof Leon writes.

SOURCE: International Journal of Epidemiology, published online March 18, 2011