People are living longer than ever before but according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) we are not living healthier lives.
Despite the advanced Dutch health system, the Netherlands scores high in terms of its ‘bad health years’; a term described below.
The HALE study
The WHO has adopted a new scale called the Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) in determining the health of populations in different countries around the world.
The HALE measures the number of years a person can expect to live in good health by assessing the social and economic factors that contribute to this. It also looks at diseases that affect populations along with the rates of disability within a country.
The way bad health years are then calculated is by taking the actual life expectancy of a person and deducting the number of years a person lives a healthy life expectancy. The gives the number of years someone can expect to live in bad health.
The infographics of this study show the change in bad health from the year 2000. The countries that are dark red will have had more bad health years than those that are a lighter red colour. Those that are yellow are neutral, and those that are green or light green, show an improvement in living a longer, healthier life.
Comparison to European neighbours
Despite having some of the highest rates of life expectancy, the study shows that Europeans have been the unhealthiest since 2000, living with the most years in bad health.
The Netherlands, alongside Belgium, the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain and Greece have the worst health score with an average of six extra years of bad health.
Other countries in Europe only scored three extra years of bad health, with Albania, Macedonia, Romania and Lithuania coming out on top in the green.
Discrepancies with the study
Whilst statistics are important, they can sometimes give a skewed picture. Countries in Europe that are normally considered to have advanced healthcare systems are doing strikingly worse than countries with less equipped healthcare systems such as those on the African, Middle Eastern, Asian and Australasian continents.
North America remains neutral and yet South America also ranks high in terms of bad health years.
This could imply that the gap of change in health and healthcare services from 2000 until now, has improved dramatically in those developing regions, whereas in Europe and South America, it may have changed very little.
Still, a more detailed breakdown of the HALE would be beneficial in determining the true meaning of ‘bad health years’.
Author: Kiri Scully