Global Health Study: We are getting older, but not healthier

Enough doctors, hospitals, a high standard of living - in a global comparison, Germany is doing very well in terms of medical care. But: Four preventable health risks remain a problem.

What do Germany, Iceland and Cuba have in common? They are among the countries with the most medical staff per inhabitant.

This is from one of the largest health studies in the world, published in the British journal The Lancet. This may sound surprising in times of care crisis, country doctor and midwife shortage, but compared to the vast majority of countries in the world, Germany is doing well in health care.

According to the analysis, the West African country Benin comes last. The number of doctors, nurses and midwives was compared to the number of inhabitants. A conclusion on the quality of medical care does not allow the study with data from the year 2017, the authors emphasize.

The scientists are worried that nearly half of the 195 countries surveyed are struggling with a shortage of medical staff. There were less than ten doctors and less than 30 nurses and midwives per 10,000 inhabitants available last year.

Four factors cause half of the deaths

The supply of medical personnel was first explored in the most recent biennial study titled "Global Burden of Disease".

The Global Burden of Disease study was launched in the early 1990s by Harvard University, the World Health Organization and the World Bank. Over 3500 scientists from more than 140 countries are now involved in the project.

The researchers have also analyzed in the current study, which factors currently endanger health the most. They are alarmed by the fact that more than half of the world's 56 million deaths in 2017 were attributable to only four largely preventable factors: high blood pressure, smoking, high blood glucose levels and overweight. Here are the top ten risk factors for health worldwide:

The biggest risk factors worldwide

1. high blood pressure
Second Smoke
Third High blood sugar value
4th overweight
5th prematurity
6th Underweight at birth
7th alcohol
8th. High cholesterol level
9th Malnutrition in children
10th Fine dust in the air

Source: The Lancet, GBD 2017

The chart shows a clear discrepancy: risk factors such as malnutrition are more of a problem for developing countries, while aspects such as overweight are more a result of affluent society - and these have become significantly more significant in recent decades.

In addition, the number of people killed by conflict and terrorism has more than doubled over the past decade, the researchers warn. Fewer people fell ill and died from polluted water or bad hygiene.

At the same time, people's life expectancy has continued to rise, but not as rapidly as in previous decades. Often, however, the place of residence and the sex still determine how old a person becomes. Girls born in 2017 have an average life expectancy of 75.6 years, whereas boys only have 70.5 years.

By comparison, in affluent Germany children of the same age will probably be seven years older on average - for girls the average life expectancy is currently 83 years and for boys 78.2 years. One of the main reasons, according to the researchers, is better health care. How life expectancy in Germany has changed since 1950 can be seen here:

But even as life expectancy increases worldwide, it does not automatically make people healthier. Some researchers even assume that people in developed countries could die earlier on average again. Possible reasons for this are precisely the risk factors to which the current study also points: high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and obesity are often associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, which can lead to premature death.

Cardiovascular DiseaseThis lot of damage causes one cigarette per day

Overall, researchers call global health development worrying. They write: "Not only do global figures show a worrying slowdown in progress, but looking at the detailed results also shows exactly how unbalanced the trend is." There is a need for major international efforts to reduce health risks in all parts of the world and improve medical care.