Czech life expectancy lags behind EU average due to unhealthy habits

After two decades in the European Union, Czech life expectancy is still 1.6 years lower than the EU average, with unhealthy habits to blame. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 13.04.2024 11:22:00 (updated on 13.04.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Despite two decades in the European Union, the Czech Republic's life expectancy still lags behind the EU average, with unhealthy lifestyle habits identified as a key factor, according to experts from the SYRI National Institute based on data in the country's 2023 State of Health in the EU report.

While life expectancy in the Czech Republic has increased by about four years since joining the EU in 2004, it remains below the EU average. According to the latest date from the report, life expectancy in the Czech Republic is currently at 79.1 years compared to 80.7 years across the EU.

"Increasing life expectancy in the Czech Republic in the last twenty years is not enough to make up the difference, so we are still lagging behind the EU average," notes Dagmar Dzúrová, head of research at SYRI, the country's National Institute for Research on Socioeconomic Impacts of Diseases and Systemic Risks.

"We can look for an explanation of this fact both in the past and in the present. From the mid-sixties of the last century, we began to lag behind the European average, and nothing has changed in the last two decades."

SYRI's experts point out that an unhealthy lifestyle prevalent among Czechs, characterized by excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise, contributes significantly to this disparity.

Almost half of all deaths in the country in 2019 were attributed to behavioral risk factors. While smoking rates have decreased slightly, alcohol consumption remains high, and obesity rates exceed the EU average, leading to a higher vulnerability to chronic disease.

To address these challenges, experts advocate for increased investment in health literacy and prevention measures, including vaccinations, regular check-ups, and promotion of healthy lifestyles. However, data from the study indicates that the Czech Republic has yet to fully capitalize on preventive measures, with vaccination rates for the elderly remaining below the EU average.

“Investments in health literacy and prevention are an essential part of a health policy strategy that can lead to long-term improvements in population health and the correction of health inequities," adds Klára Hulíková-Tesárková, senior researcher at SYRI.

Despite these challenges, a majority of Czech adults perceive their health positively. However, disparities exist across income and education levels, with education impacting smoking rates and physical activity levels.

The findings in the latest State of Health in the EU report for Czechia underscore the need for concerted efforts to address unhealthy lifestyle habits and promote preventive healthcare measures to bridge the gap between Czech health indicators and the EU average.

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