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Alcohol, Tobacco Still Eroding Healthy Life Expectancy, Experts Say

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Healthy life expectancy has dropped in the last three years to just 55.5 - seven years off the EU average. Experts point to a combination of increased tobacco and alcohol use and financial insecurity from the last recession. 

The news that healthy life expectancy had dropped for a third straight year was originally reported in June. Men born today can expect just 53.55 years of healthy lifespan; women, 57.43 years. The results when only non-Estonians are counted are even lower.

For the government, which has set a goal of extending the length of healthy living for men to 57 years and for women to 62 years by 2015, the window is closing. 

Experts finger the role of alcoholism and tobacco use.

Cardiologist Margus Viigimaa told ETV: "Psychosocial stress is a key risk factor for heart and cardiovascular diseases and it's really a key risk factor for other diseases as well."

Viigimaa said heart health had improved in recent years, with exercise and more health consciousness - as witnessed by the number of joggers in Tallinn and turnout at running races these days - playing a major role.

"But alcohol consumption is still off the charts," he said. "If we continue on like this, it will be very bad. And we have practically not achieved any success with smoking, just a small drop."

Alcohol-related mortality at bottom of EU

A fresh analysis by Statistics Estonia pointed up the country's per capita consumption of 10.2 liters of the equivalent of pure ethanol per year in 2011.

What is more, alcohol-related mortality is the worst in the EU. There were 6.2 deaths caused by alcohol in 2010 per 100,000 people. (Latvia's figure was 4.8; Finland's, 2.6.)

The agency said it didn't have information on the correlation between alcoholism and lost capacity for work, but in the same analysis, Statistics Estonia put figures for everyday alcohol consumption side by side with perceived health and invalid pensions, and found that counties in southern and eastern Estonia - Võru, Valga, Põlva, Ida-Viru and Jõgeva counties - were generally the leaders in both departments. In Valga County 30 percent of the population drinks once a week, and 12 percent have a medical certificate saying they are unable to work.

Household spending on alcohol and tobacco grew in 2008-2012 - they made up 7 percent of total spending in 2008 but 10 percent in 2012, Statistics Estonia said. 


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