Life Expectancy in Croatia Lags 2.9 Years Behind EU Average

By 6 December 2019

ZAGREB, Dec 6 (Hina) - Croatia's life expectancy is increasing but is still below the European Union's average by three years, according to findings of the EU report on the State of Health in its member-states.

"Although life expectancy at birth in Croatia increased by 3.4 years between 2000 and 2017, from 74.6 to 78 years, the distance to the EU average remained almost unchanged, amounting to 2.9 years," reads the report's section on Croatia

Croatia's Health Profile, which was presented in Zagreb on Friday by the Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health, reads that one the reasons for this gap is "the low effectiveness of public health interventions," and in this context it is underscored that "anti-tobacco policies are underdeveloped, indoor smoking in public places is still widespread, and rates of teenage smoking are the third highest in the EU."

"Obesity rates are rising, particularly among children. Preventable mortality is well above the EU average," reads the report.

"Social inequalities in life expectancy appear to be less pronounced in Croatia than in many other EU countries. For instance, Croatian women with lower education live on average 1.6 years less than those who completed tertiary education, and this gap for women is far below the EU average (4.1 years).

In 2017, Croatians aged 65 could expect to live an additional 17.4 years, 2 years more than in 2000. However, more than 12 years of life of this period is spent with disabilities. The gender gap in life expectancy at age 65 is about 3.5 years in favour of women. However, there is no gender difference in the number of healthy life years because women tend to live a greater proportion of their lives after age 65 with health issues and disabilities, reads the report.

The shorter life expectancy in the Croatian cohort of elderly citizens than in the whole of the EU is the consequence of behavioural risk factors, including dietary factors, tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and low physical activity, exceeding the EU average in particular for dietary risks and tobacco. Slightly more than half of all deaths in Croatia can be attributed to those behavioural risk factors.

Croatia spent 6.8 % of its GDP on health in 2017, much less than the EU average of 9.8 %. Although it is also among the three lowest spenders in the EU in terms of health spending per capita, Croatia has maintained a relatively high share of public spending, resulting in high levels of financial protection. However, levels of public debt still exert constraints on public spending on health. Furthermore, a large share of health expenditure goes to pharmaceuticals, far exceeding the EU average. Policy initiatives to address this include evolving centralised procurement for hospitals, but there is large scope for further action, such as increasing the share of generics. In contrast, a very small share of health expenditure is spent on long-term care, which is generally underdeveloped. In view of the ageing of the population, it will be important to increase the availability of community-based long-term care.

Croatia is advised to improve the strategic planning of human resources in the healthcare system, although in the country there are fewer unmet needs for medical care than on average in the Union.

In recent years, the number of doctors and nurses has increased in Croatia but they are unevenly distributed across the country, and many are either moving abroad or nearing retirement.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.