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“Overweight and inactive”: Portuguese are smoking and drinking less, but…

The lifestyle changes are still not quite enough. Portuguese nationals have made some positive changes, says a new study, but the overall picture is far from rosy.

Less than half those queried (46.5%) even consider themselves to be healthy, explains Diário de Notícias – when the corresponding EU average is much higher (66.9%).

Country Health Profile 2017 has been compiled by the European Commission. It is the first time that member states health systems have been ‘profiled’ to see assess their strengths and challenges, says the paper – and on the basis of data quoted in the past for smoking and drinking, the new figures are heartening.

For example “smoking and binge drinking rates are far below the EU averages”.

But “rising rates of obesity and physical inactivity present a growing challenge”, particularly as the problems appear to be affecting the “youngest” members of the population.

Says DN, “the prevalence of obesity in 15 year olds increased (since 2000) by almost 60%, from one in eight to one in five, at the same time that physical inactivity is among the highest of the 28 (member states)”.

“Just as with our European partners”, the level of obesity in people with the least education is almost double that of people “with a higher degree of education”.

Portuguese run a greater risk of contracting diabetes than the EU average, and more of them die of heart disease and respiratory diseases than EU counterparts, while life expectancy in Portugal (at 81.3 years) is “almost half a year longer than the EU average” although it remains two years less than in Spain or Italy.

What can be done to improve the situation? According to Vytenis Andriukaitis, commissioner for health and food safety, it is a question of approach. The EU spends just 3% of its health budgets on ‘prevention’ and 80% on treatment. Much more should be going into preventing health issues, particularly as some measure “cost almost nothing”, he said – pointing out, that with a national hero like Cristiano Ronaldo, he doesn’t really understand why so many young people don’t do enough exercise.

The system, too, needs shaking up. “The study indicates that the nursing shortage in Portugal is serious, as is the geographical inequality in the distribution of doctors”, says DN – stressing that it is not just an issue of money, but of organisation and improving the way new technologies could be brought into play.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com