PENSIONERS in parts of southern Europe live longer than those based in its Northern countries, a study published in the British Medical Journal has revealed.
Researching the life-expectancy of inhabitants across 18 European countries over the last 20 years, the results published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health showed widespread variations in the longevity of elderly Europeans.
Analysing patterns of old age survival in 4404 small areas in 18 European countries, researchers focused on the 10 year survival rate of those in the 75 – 84 age group, to see if they made it through another decade of life.
The results showed that those living in Northern Spain, Andorra, north eastern Italy and southern and western France will chalk up more years that those in the UK, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, where poor diets and unhealthy lifestyles take their toll on old-age survival rates.
The survival rates of more than 313 million people were observed over two periods: 1991-2001 and 2001-2011 but researchers excluded Greece, Cyprus, Germany, Ireland and some Eastern European countries due to a lack of data available on their elderly populations.
In 2001, the proportion of 75 – 84 year old people surviving to 85 – 94 was 27 per cent for men and 40 per cent for women, but by 2011 that rate had jumped to 34 and 47 per cent respectively.
However, the researchers found significant geographical variations during both time periods.
Areas with the highest old-age male survival in the first period were in Spain, Andorra and Switzerland, while post-industrial and urban areas in Scotland, England and Northern France were among those with the lowest.
The geographical distribution of old-age survival rates for women reflected that of the men, only adding high survival areas in north eastern Italy and low rates in southern Spain, as well as in Naples and Sicily in Italy.
By 2011, however, high male survival rates were observed in southern and western France, while areas with low rates for men stubbornly persisted in the industrial parts of the UK, areas on the France-Belgium border, Amsterdam and South Limberg in the Netherlands, and Copenhagen in Denmark.
A similar distribution was observed in old-age survival rates for women in the second period, though the originally high rate seen in north eastern Italy had plummeted.
The UK´s low old-age survival rates remained stubbornly persistent, which is explained by the dense populations in industrialised and urban areas.
A higher rate of cardiovascular disease, which accounts for more than four in 10 deaths in Europe, is given as a reason for lower life expectancy in countries like Britain, where poverty, lifestyle, pollution, healthcare quality and even genes are blamed for an unhealthy population.
The same determinants can also explain why the old-age survival rates of those in areas including Portugal, southern Spain and southern Italy are also relatively low.