NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Eurogap In Life Expectancy

November 6, 2000

While attention has been paid to the gap in life expectancy between rich developed countries and poor developing countries, researchers say less attention has been paid to the widening gap in life expectancy between western and eastern European countries.

Eastern Europe -- former Communist countries and parts of the Soviet Union -- have undergone substantial social and economic changes since 1989. By comparing trends in the two decades before the fall of the Soviet Bloc and the decade since then, researchers hope to identify the determinants of health improvement or deterioration in societies making such drastic changes.

They have found (with similar but smaller changes for women):

  • In 1970 male life expectancy at age 15 was 56 in countries that now form the European Union; 55 in the communist countries of central and eastern Europe (excluding the Soviet Union); and 52 in the Soviet Union.
  • In 1997 male life expectancy was 60 in the countries that now form the European Union; 54 in the former communist countries of central and eastern Europe (excluding the former Soviet Union); and 48 in Russia.
  • In the 1980s there were inequalities in health within individual countries in eastern Europe which widened after 1989.

Mortality changes after 1989 in eastern Europe were correlated with changes in gross domestic product and changes in income inequalities. Inequalities in health within individual countries in eastern Europe were more strongly related to education than to measures of economic wellbeing.

Source: Michael Marmot and Martin Bobak, "International comparators and poverty and health in Europe," British Medical Journal, November 4, 2000.

For text:

http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7269/1124

 

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