Luxembourg counts 3 doctors for every 1,000 residents, compared to 3.6 across the EU
The European Commission issued Luxembourg with a strong report card for its health provision. But its “State of Health in the EU 2019” report published at the end of November shows trends that should not be ignored. Delano distills five salient themes from the report.
Life expectancy increasing
Life expectancy in Luxembourg rose from 78 in 2000 to 82.1 in 2017, well above the EU average of 80.9. The report author wrote this was because of a decrease in the main causes of death, which include various cancers, diabetes, pneumonia, heart attack and respiratory diseases. Lung cancer remains the most frequent cause of cancer death in Luxembourg. Although overall rates have declined since 2000, among women they have increased because of a prevalence of smoking.
More than a third of deaths were linked to poor living habits such as smoking, obesity and drinking alcohol, while the proportion of total smokers in Luxembourg fell below the EU average to 16%. Among 15-year-olds surveyed, 16% of people polled said they smoked at least once a week, a higher proportion than the EU average. The country has the third highest proportion of people who consume alcohol to excess at 35%. Meanwhile, 16% of the adult population was classed obese, slightly above the EU average, and one in five 15-year-olds was obese.
Vaccinations and antibiotics
In 2017, Luxembourg was among the biggest consumers of antibiotics in the EU with 24.1 doses per day for every 1,000 inhabitants. While well above the EU average (20.1), the rate fell from 27.7 in 2013, thanks to antibiotic resistance awareness campaigns in the country.
The vaccination rate of children in Luxembourg was above the EU average but the rate of flu jabs issued to over 65s is falling.
While the report concluded that Luxembourg spent well above the EU average on healthcare at €3,575 per capita, and that reforms were underway to make it more efficient, it highlighted shortfalls in the supply of people who administer the care. Luxembourg is highly dependent on health professionals from abroad, who currently make up 6 out of every 10 professionals. It also stressed the ageing pool of doctors in the country, a situation which is set to worsen given the country counts three doctors for every 1,000 residents, compared to 3.6 across the EU.
Pressure to increase
The country’s ageing population will increase demand for health and long-term care, the report found. By 2050, a quarter of the population is expected to be aged 65 or above, compared to 14% in 2017. Another critical observation was that Luxembourg emergency departments were overcrowded because they were being over-used. According to the report, nearly one in five admissions are a non-urgent case and one in four people could be treated by a GP instead. To reduce the pressure, Luxembourg has introduced GP out-of-hours care and on-duty health centres or Maison Médicales.
The report also warned that projected spending increases and increased long-term care spending requirements related to the ageing population could undermine the country’s fiscal sustainability. Indeed, health expenditure is expected to increase from 3.9% of GDP in 2016 to 5.1% by 2070. Luxembourg spends 1.3% of GDP on long-term care, one of the highest in the EU. This figure is projected to increase to 4.1% in 2070, the report said.