EUGLOREH project
THE STATUS OF HEALTH IN THE EUROPEAN UNION:
TOWARDS A HEALTHIER EUROPE

FULL REPORT

PART II - HEALTH CONDITIONS

9. MAIN HEALTH ISSUES AND TRENDS FOR DIFFERENT AGE AND GENDER POPULATION GROUPS

9.4. Elderly

9.4.2. Data sources

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9.4.2. Data sources

 

Policy makers should not assume that all people over 64 are a homogenous group in relation to public health. There is an urgent need for improved health statistics on the older population, stratified by age group, gender and income levels, which can improve, inform and guide future public health policies.

 

Recent data and reports appear to reflect the 1990s focus on healthy ageing. It is difficult to find recent statistics and studies on lifestyle issues and older people (e.g. smoking, sexual health etc.) The EU co-funded MERI project, carried out in 12 European countries, was a response to demands by policy makers and scientists for a greater knowledge on the living conditions and problems faced by older women. The findings of the report showed that research on older women as an independent target group is still inadequate. There remains a dearth of data that addresses elderly people as a heterogeneous group.

 

There are no easily comparable data on morbidity of older people in Europe for ischemic or cerebrovascular diseases. Data is dated (often more than 10 years old). The British Heart Foundation provides a comprehensive set of European statistics, but only includes data up to 74 years of age. Although some academic papers in the European regions indicate that CHD is increasing in the older age groups, it is difficult to access European data supporting this theory.

 

Table 9.4.1. General Physical Health Measures Among Men and Women Aged 50 or more in 10 European Countries

 

There are large variations in the size and pattern of chronic diseases and the socioeconomic differences in their prevalence. Large social inequalities for some specific fatal diseases (e.g. stroke) and non-fatal diseases (e.g. arthritis) require special attention in equity-oriented research and policies.

 

A number of conditions such sight, hearing and functional difficulties and reduced mobility demonstrate age-related increases. However, the onset and severity of these conditions varies dramatically. Some live to be fit and healthy into their eighties and nineties while others are severely impaired in their sixties.

 

In addition, chronic illness and acute conditions that can result in chronic disability, such as stroke or heart attack, can affect the individual’s ability to live independently. People with the same condition may have different impairment and thus present a differing set of needs. In addition, there are cultural differences which may influence the perception of how a chronic condition impacts on the individual. This cultural sensitivity must be acknowledged within technological or other service interventions.

 

Figure 9.4.1. Ability to carry out various activities of daily living among people aged 65 and over living in private households, 2001/02