Despite European countries being amongst the world’s richest, there are huge variances in life expectancy across the continent.
Life expectancy can be used as a measure of the Human Development Index or to give an indication of the overall quality of life in different areas. Many would assume that people living in the EU have a higher life expectancy than people living in other areas of the world where there are ongoing wars or lack of available medicines. It is shocking however that in some regions of Europe life expectancy is lower than other areas of the world that we deem less fortunate than ourselves. For example the Calton district of Glasgow has a life expectancy of 54 years for a man, which is lower than the average life expectancy in Gaza (73 years for males).
Within Europe there are variations in life expectancies between various cities and countries, but how do these arguably arbitrary numbers stack up, given that the average life expectancy for EU citizens in 81? Comparing Glasgow (54) to Geneva (86) to Scotland (77) or Spain (81), there are significant differences in between these life expectancy figures. When considering the reason, the most obvious answer usually rides in money, or the lack of it. The Calton area of Glasgow is an example where deprivation is rampant, with just under half the population relying on benefits. The main problem stems from this fact; this area has more than double number of smokers compared to the Scottish national average along with high drink dependency, drug addiction, obesity and a poor diet. This is an unfortunate recipe which eats away at life expectancy figures, but it may be that we need to look outside Europe to get some ideas on increasing the life expectancy here.
In some parts of the world, higher life expectancies can be due to an accumulation of factors, such as geography, religion and politics. For example, the life expectancy of an Iraqi is 67. This is higher than Calton despite everything which has happened in Iraq. The possible high life expectancy could have something to do with the prohibition against drinking alcohol, the fresh food they eat and the exercise associated with earning one’s living, not to mention the warm climate. Compared to Calton this promotes a healthier lifestyle, a lifestyle that in Europe exists mainly only on ‘detox’ days, not a lifetime.
So is it just that the EU needs to inject money into an area to boost employment and so that the residents can afford a healthier lifestyle? Although this in theory makes sense, there may be more to life expectancy that is beyond the power of the EU; climate and sunshine exposure. Many studies have been conducted into the possible variables in the differences in life expectancies but climate and sun exposure may have a positive effect up to a point, however it must be taken into a consideration that there is not just one factor that effects life expectancy but there is a complicated interacting net of variables which can lead to or prevent serious illness and death.
The EU could influence advertising, which can sometimes give misguided advice which affects health and lifestyle choices. From this top down approach it would encourage an escape from the spiral of decline in health into a longer and healthier life. However this leads into another debate onto increasing the life expectancy is one thing, but it may be a question of the standard of living; will the ‘gained’ years be lived in good or bad health because after all, health is wealth.