Monday, 3 December 2012

Men's health, Polish-style

Today's Gazeta Wyborcza carried a story based on Eurostat data looking at the life expectancy of men and women in different countries around the EU. The data is not new (2007 and 2008) but even so, it makes an interesting comparison between men and women in the old EU member states and in the post-communist accession countries, and between different education levels.

The figures are shocking. Whereas in countries like Sweden or Italy, the life expectancy of a 30 year-old man with higher education is around six years more than one with only basic education, that difference in Poland is over 12 years. A similar picture exists in Hungary the Czech Republic (both over 13 years difference). Significantly, a well-educated Czech men can expect to live almost as long as Swedish ones (only six months' difference), but a Swede who left school young will outlive a Czech man with basic education by a whole ten years.

Evidently diet, exercise and nicotine and alcohol abuse have a part to play in explaining why educated men outlive their less bookish compatriots. Awareness of these factors, and the strength of will required to live a healthier life, is key. And yet, the differences in life expectancy between women of different education status are much less pronounced (less than five years in the case of Poland, less than three in Italy). Women are less prone to taking risks with their lives (site safety on Polish building sites, for example, is generally appalling) and women raising children acquire some practical knowledge of hygiene.

But why the huge difference between life expectancy in less well-educated men in post-communist Europe and those from the old member states? Is it simply down to cigarettes, vodka and fatty diets? Or is there something else at play - a lack of something to live for? Ghosts of a communist past, or Slavic fatalism? Is there something on the curriculum at Polish universities regarding how to live longer that's not taught to boys at school?

The life expectancy by country data has been known for a long time. Mediterranean people live longer than northern Europeans (sunshine, seafood, a more laid-back attitude to life). And people from post-communist countries live shorter lives (effects of pollution, poor health-and-safety at work, smaller GDPs from which to fund healthcare), so when it comes to life expectancy at birth, Italians and Spaniards come top, while Latvians and Lithuanians come bottom. (And then there's Glasgow...)

But how do we account for those glaring life expectancy differences between life expectancy for men in post-communist countries on the basis of their education?

This time five years ago:
Son Eddie is 12 today
[Goodness! How time flies...]


Anonymous said...

Być może problemem jest ignorowanie (właśnie z powodu ignorancji) pierwszych symptomów jakiejś powazniejszej choroby przez ludzi niewykształconych. A może to tylko koincydencja, a prawdziwym powodem jest np. wykształcenie żon, albo wykształcenie matek lub generalnie rodziców.


Anonymous said...

Slabo wykształcony Polski mężczyzna często

- fizycznie bardzo ciężko pracuje
- odżywia się bardzo tanio i niezdrowo, bo go nie stać na drogo i zdrowo.
- pali podrabiane ruskie papierosy i spożywa tani alkohol
- żyje w permanentnym stresie
- żyje w wilgotnych mieszkaniach
- pali toksyczne odpady w domowych piecykach
- jeździ pijany samochodem
- nie dba o zdrowie. Bo go nie stać na łapówki, sanatoria i urlopy.

Typowy syndrom perwersyjnego turbo kapitalizmu. Podobnie jest w Chinach, Bangladeszu, Indiach, USA itd. Tym czasem socjalistyczna Kuba ma jedno z najzdrowszych społeczeństw....