Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Look at Health & Mortality in Estonia

One thing I noticed when I first visited Estonia in 2003 was the apparent absence of obesity among its population compared to the United States and Australia. These countries have seen a sharp rise in obesity during the past thirty years due to the increased consumption of processed foods, high sugar diet and lack of exercise.  It is no accident that obesity is rife in some countries and not in others.

In Estonia the male life expectancy is disproportionately low compared to that for females. Typically women live 12 years longer than men. On average women in Estonia live to 79.2 years compared to men at 68.6 years. There are several factors contributing to this, primarily the dietary habits and food choices that vary according to gender, age and income level in Estonia. Women typically live longer because they eat more fruit, vegetables and berries compared to men and premature death in adults is often a direct result from alcohol abuse and smoking.

One of the major challenges faced by Estonia today is its declining birth rate. The birth rate in Estonia has dramatically declined since 1990 due to insecurity, fears for the cost of education and people postponing having families.. In March 2014 Estonian Minister of Economy & Infrastructure Urve Palo said that only 29% of people are pleased with their family life which is a major contributor to Estonia's low birth rate.  In 2013 there were 13,531 births in Estonia compared to 15,244 deaths. This represents a population growth rate of  -.0.68%. Deaths now outnumber births.

Estonia's declining birth rate

Here are 10 health and demographic facts about Estonia.

1. The 5 leading causes of death in Estonia are coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, liver disease and hypertension. Diseases affecting the circulatory system account for 42% of all deaths in Estonia. This is one of the highest rates in the EU. 

2.  According to the 2011 World Heath Ranking, Estonia was 5th in the world for pancreatic cancer, 6th for alcohol related deaths and 10th for poisoning.

3. Despite the fact that the average life expectancy has increased in recent years in Estonia, it is still below the EU average of 78.

4. Much of the deteriorating health which occurs in Estonia is preventable. Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death for people under the age of 65. External injury deaths such as drowning, suicide and car accidents are often a result of alcohol abuse and the Estonian government is working hard to address this issue.

5. In 2005, 20% of all deaths in Estonia were caused by cancer. Approximately 3,500 deaths from malignant tumours occur in Estonia each year.

6.  Estonia has a relatively low rate of breast cancer in the EU. Less than 30.0 deaths per 100,000 females. Denmark has the highest.

7. According to the 2014 Statistics Yearbook the number of cases of infectious diseases varies from year to year. The most common diseases in Estonia are acute upper respiratory tract infections which in 2012 had a 13% lower incidence rate than the previous year. Cases of influenza, whooping cough, tick-borne encephalitis, tuberculosis and salmonella all decreased that year.

8. New cases of HIV infection have steadily declined in Estonia since 2007. In 2012 there were only 36 new cases reported.

9. The fertility rate in Estonia is now officially 1.46. In 2014 that meant that there were 10.29 births per 1,000 population.

10. According to a World Health Organisation study completed in 2013, the majority of Estonian children eat fresh fruit daily and have a low consumption of milk.

For addition reading, please click here:
Estonian Causes of Death RegistryWorld Health Rankings16 Cancer Causing Foods You Should Avoid, Estonia Demographics Profile 2014.