OECD: Rise in life expectancy in Israel slowing

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Life expectancy fell in 19 OECD countries in 2015. Israel has higher than average life expectancy despite lower than average expenditure on health services, the OECD reports.

Obesity, an increase in diabetes, and consumption of opioids caused a decrease in life expectancy in 19 OECD countries in 2015, not including in Israel. In Israel, the pace of increase in life expectancy slowed, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) states in its Health at a Glance 2019 report, which has been abridged and published by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 

The report states that life expectancy has increased dramatically since 1970, and currently stands at almost 81 years. At the same time, the pace of increase in life expectancy has slowed appreciably in recent years in several countries, notably the US, France, and the Netherlands.

19 countries experienced a decline in life expectancy in 2015 while in Israel the rise in life expectancy slowed. The researchers said, however, that 2015 was a statistical anomaly, however, no data was provided for the years after 2015.

Israel stands out in its average life expectancy - 82.6 year, higher than the OECD average. The report notes, however, that the rate of increase in life expectancy also dropped off in recent years in Israel. Life expectancy is highest in Japan (84.2) and Switzerland (83.6).

Among the reasons for the slower pace of life expectancy improvement are obesity and diabetes, which have increased morbidity from heart disease and stroke in comparison with the past. Furthermore, the report states that pulmonary diseases, such as influenza and pneumonia, caused more fatalities in recent years than in the past, especially among senior citizens.

The morbidity rates in Israel for diabetes and the rate of obesity (among children) are relatively high. Almost 7% of Israeli adults have diabetes, higher than the 6.4% OECD average, with Mexico, Turkey, and the US having the highest rates of diabetes and Ireland, Lithuania, and Estonia having the lowest rates. The proportion of overweight or obese adults in Israel is 51%, lower than the 56% OECD average. Among children in the 5-9 age bracket, however, the proportion of those overweight or obese is 38%, compared with the 33% OECD average.

The slowing of the increase in life expectancy may also related to an increase in mortality from consumption of opioids and other addictive drugs, whose side effects include both respiratory arrest and possible overdoses. According to the report, the average mortality from opioids in the OECD rose by more than 20% since 2011, causing the death of 400,000 people in the US alone. Mortality from opioids is also high in Canada, Estonia, and Sweden. Opioid use has increased in Israel in recent years, as well as in the UK and the Netherlands, but there has been no substantial effect on mortality in these countries.

Smoking rates have declined sharply in the OECD, but are still high: 18% of people over 15 smoke daily in the OECD, and 17% in Israel: 21.3% among men and 12.8% among women. Smoking rates are especially high in Indonesia, Russia, and Greece and especially low in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Iceland. The rate of alcohol consumption in Israel is among the lowest in the OECD.

Israel leads in aging doctors

The report also cites the low investment by Israel in health in general, especially in public health. Nationwide health spending (public and private) in Israel totals only 7.5% of GDP, compared with the 8.8% OECD average, with only 60% of spending in Israel coming from public funds. Public funding provides a larger proportion of health spending in a majority of OECD countries.

Health spending in 2018 was highest in the US - 16.9% of GDP, followed by Switzerland with 12.2%. Health spending in German, France, Sweden, and Japan was close to 11% of GDP. In several countries, health spending was lower than 6% of GDP, including Mexico, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Turkey. Health spending in Turkey was only 4.2% of GDP.

More people than ever are currently employed in the health and social services systems in OECD countries. 10% of all jobs are in health of social services. The report states that the transferal of tasks from doctors to nurses and other paramedical professionals, such as doctors' assistants, can ease the economic burden and improve effectiveness.

Israel has a significant problem of aging doctors, and is currently second only to Italy in doctors over 55, with half of Israel's doctors being in this category. The problem is that these doctors will retire in the coming years, and there are not enough young doctors to take their places.

The generation of doctors who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s is aging, while not enough new doctors have been trained. Enough doctors have been trained in recent years, but it will take years before they become qualified as specialists; in other words, Israel was late in addressing the problem of aging doctors.

The report also makes it clear that the proportion of doctors and nurses in Israel is lower than the OECD average: 3.1 per 1,000 people in Israel, compared with the 3.5 per 1,000 people average OECD rate. The proportion of nurses in Israel is 5.1 per 1,000 people, compared with the OECD average of 8.8 per 1,000 people.

Israel stands out in comparison with other countries in the low number of cases in which a foreign body is left in a patient's body following a medical procedure.

Commenting on the report's findings, Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman said, "I welcome the report's findings, which again show the excellence of the system, in addition to the challenges facing us in the coming years."

Ministry of Health director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov added, "Beyond the need for national preparation to the challenges of the coming decade, adding a few billions in resources can strengthen the system and substantially improve services for people. The Ministry of Health has formulated a strategic plan for deploying the system in all of its dimensions, and we expect to implement it when the new government is formed."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 10, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

AI  photo: Shutterstock
AI photo: Shutterstock
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