State of Health in the EU

Health at a Glance: Europe 2014

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Health at a glance cover

This third edition of Health at a Glance: Europe presents the latest information on health and health systems in 35 European countries, including all European Union Member States, candidate countries (with the exception of Albania due to limited data availability) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. The selection of indicators is largely based on the European Core Health Indicators (ECHI) shortlist, a list of indicators that has been developed by the European Commission to guide the development and reporting of health statistics. It is complemented by additional indicators on health expenditure, quality of care and access to care, building on the OECD expertise in these areas.

Each health information area is based on health indicators including charts illustrating variations across countries and over time, brief descriptive analyses highlighting the major findings, and an information box on the definition of the indicators and possible limitations in data comparability. An annex provides additional information on the demographic and economic context in which health systems operate.

This publication is the result of collaboration between the OECD and the European Commission in the field of health information, with the help of national data correspondents from the 35 countries.

Key findings

  • Life expectancy continues to increase in the EU, reaching 79.2 years on average in 2012 (82.2 years for women and 76.1 for men) – an increase of 5.1 years since 1990. However, inequalities persist with a gap of 8.4 years between the highest and lowest Member State.
  • Between 2009 and 2012 health spending in real terms (adjusted for inflation) decreased by 0.6% per year on average. This was due to cuts in health workforce and salaries, reductions in fees paid to health providers, lower pharmaceutical prices, and increased patient co-payments.
  • Since 2000, the number of doctors per capita has increased in all EU countries except for France where it has remained stable. The number of practising nurses has also increased in all but two Member States.
  • There are wide variations across EU countries in waiting times for non-emergency surgical interventions. While some countries have made progress in reducing waiting times over the past few years, in other countries such as Portugal and Spain, they have started to rise.
  • Patients are increasingly moving across borders to pursue medical treatment. Both imports and exports of health care services have grown in most EU countries between 2007 and 2012. Patient mobility in Europe may see further growth as a result of the entry into force in 2013 of the EU Directive on Cross-border healthcare , which supports patients in exercising their right to cross-border healthcare and promotes co-operation between health systems.
  • Smoking rates stand at an average of 22.8% in the EU (2012 data) – a 12% reduction since 2002.
  • The EU has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world - average of 10.1 litres per person. The countries with the highest level of consumption are Lithuania, Estonia and Austria, and the lowest are Italy, Sweden and Malta.
  • Overweight and obesity is increasing in the EU. 53% of adults in the EU are now either overweight or obese. Obesity, which presents even greater health risks than being overweight currently affects one in six adults (16.7%) in the EU, an increase from one in eight a decade ago. However, there are considerable variations between countries.