Early deaths are avoidable

As many as 36 per cent of premature deaths registered in Portugal are avoidable, according to a study undertaken at the Geographical Studies Unit of the University of Coimbra by Paula Santana, presented during the Congresso Português de Demografia in Lisbon this week.

According to specialists, death is considered to be premature if it occurs prior to the year of average life expectacy (73.7 years for men and 80.6 for women). The researcher considered the percentage in Portugal to be ‘high’. Also, according to the same study, the north of Portugal, Lisbon, Vale do Tejo and the Algarve are the regions of the country where there are the most avoidable early deaths.

Causes of death were analysed between the years of 1989 and 1990 and it was discovered that the geographical location had a direct bearing on the number of premature deaths. Paula Santana concluded that Lisbon, Vale do Tejo and the Algarve were the locations where the most deaths took place due to dangerous attitudes and behaviour. In the north of the country, those considered to be preventable were due to strokes, cirrhosis of the liver and infant deaths. According to the investigator, in analysing the mortality rates by geographical region, it was possible to reveal an unequal distribution of diseases and geographical variation in the standards of efficiency and effectiveness of the health service.

The alteration in numbers relating to the various causes of death in Portugal, during the last century, was also debated during the second day of the congress. According to Maria da Graça Morais of the University of Évora, in the 1920s, deaths occurred principally due to respiratory problems and non-identified causes and, in the 1990s, the main causes of death in Portugal were due to circulatory problems and accidents. In her speech, she called attention to the fact that Portugal has a high number of deaths caused by unknown reasons. In 1990, 13.32 per cent were recorded and, in 2001, 11.39 per cent. The figure is five per cent lower in the rest of the European Union.

The analysis of mortality and seasonality was another of the themes discussed, following the presentation of a study made by investigators from the Observatório Nacional de Saúde of the Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute. The research was developed by José Marinho Falcão and Paulo Nogueira and considered all the causes of death registered in Portugal between 1980 and the year 2000. It concluded that each cause of death appeared in different time cycles. The researchers also revealed that external factors caused a greater number of deaths during the summer than over the winter period.