European women live on average 7.5 years longer than men. This is the conclusion of the World Health Organization's (WHO) 2012 health report. The report looks at 900 million people in all European countries. According to the study, women have an average life expectancy of 80 years, while men live only 72.5 years.
Europeans are far ahead in international health comparison. However, there are large differences between the individual countries. These differences are particularly large in men. 17 years separate European nations with highest and lowest life expectancy. Only twelve years for women.
The differences are also related to differences in income. "The gap between female and male life expectancy is very small in the high-income group. It is much greater among low-income groups," Ian Banks of the European Men's Health Forum (EMHF) told German Health News. "These low-income groups have a higher risk propensity especially for alcohol consumption, diet, driving, violence, sexual activity or smoking," said Banks. All of this leads to a lower life expectancy.
The EMHF publishes an annual report on men's health in Europe. The latest edition from 2011 says that people in poorer circumstances eat unhealthier, exercise less, consume more alcohol and are more likely to smoke or use drugs.
According to WHO, the leading causes of death in Europe are non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, followed by cancer and diabetes. Unhealthy diet and little exercise are among the most common causes of these diseases. "Men's diets are generally less healthy and nutritious than women's," according to the EMHF's health report.
But tobacco and alcohol consumption pose the greatest health risk. According to WHO, alcohol causes 6.5 percent of all deaths in Europe. Europeans drink the most in the world, with an average of 10.6 liters of pure alcohol per person. Germans in particular drink an above-average amount of alcohol, 12 liters per year. This also leads to a lower life expectancy for men. "Men are more likely than women to drink and to do so in harmful ways. In addition, men are more likely to be alcohol dependent than women," according to the EMFH report. Injury and death rates due to alcohol consumption are higher among men than among women.
The greatest differences in life expectancy between men and women are in Eastern Europe. Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia, Estonia, Lithuania and Montenegro belong to this group. Alcohol and tobacco consumption is also highest here in Europe. In contrast, the differences are smallest in the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, Israel and Great Britain. In 2010, the average life expectancy in the United Kingdom was 80 years, with women living to 82.5 years and men to 78.5 years.
More than 50 percent of deaths among men are preventable, according to the EMHF. Men, however, are less likely than women to attend routine and preventive checkups. Therefore, awareness and knowledge about health among men has to be increased. WHO representatives call on European countries to work more together to reduce wide health disparities across the continent.