Growing rate of premature mortality in European men

4 November 2011

An EC report reveals a growing rate of premature mortality in European men and deteriorating health. Its lead author, Professor Alan White, the world’s first Professor of Men’s Health at Leeds Metropolitan University, presented the findings at an Expert Symposium on Men’s Health as part of the launch of the University’s Institute for Health & Wellbeing on Thursday. 

The report, The State of Men’s Health in Europe, was published earlier this year by the European Commission and reveals that the male population is changing, with a reduction of 24 million men of working age (15-64) and an increase of 32 million men aged 65 and over across Europe by 2060.

Professor White says: “The report shows that the old are getting older and the reduction of men of working age across Europe will create major new challenges to the health and social care sectors, as well as for the workforce, employers and economies. In the UK however, our low birth rate is being masked by the migration of people of working age.

The headline finding from the report is that there is a persistent trend of higher rates of premature mortality not just in men as compared to women, but when comparing men from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.  

In terms of the differences between men and women:

  • Life expectancy for the EU27 stands at 76.07 for men and 82.21 for women, ranging from 80yrs in Iceland and Lichtenstein to 66.3yrs in Lithuania (a gap of 13.7 years);
  • A clear gap exists between the Eastern European Countries as compared to Western Europe;
  • It is key to note that there are big differences within each member state so no country can be complacent;
  • In 2007, there were over 630,000 male deaths between the ages of 15 and 64 years of age as compared to 300,000 female deaths. Across EU27, deaths in this 15-64 age group account for 26% of total male deaths compared to 13% of female deaths.  However, these proportions vary considerably between countries: ranging from nearly 44% of total male deaths occurring in this age group in Lithuania to 18% in Sweden.  For every country, this has significant implications for family and community life, and for the economy.

When the causes of these deaths were analysed they extended across the majority of conditions that should be seen to affect men and women equally. Although men’s increased susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and deaths as a result of accidents in their earlier years is quite well known, their vulnerability to such a wide range of conditions is less well recognised — for instance, cancers.

Tobacco use is the major cause of preventable deaths in the EU — 15% of all deaths and 25% of all cancer deaths. Every year over half a million Europeans die prematurely because of tobacco use. Smoking related deaths and illnesses have a cost burden of over €100 billion per year.

The higher rates of deaths in both communicable and non-communicable disease are, in part, a result of men’s riskier lifestyles but are also underpinned by the social determinants of men’s health. In all Member States, men who live in poorer material and social conditions are likely to eat less healthily, take less exercise, be overweight/obese, consume more alcohol, be more likely to smoke, engage in substance misuse, and to engage in more risky sexual behaviours. All of these have significant impacts on length and quality of life.

The report provides the first complete picture of the breadth of issues affecting men’s health. It shows clearly that right across Europe, men are more likely to die prematurely than women, and that men in lower socio-economic groups have significantly poorer health than those in higher groups. This applies to every country within the EU27.

This Report is an important milestone and sets the baseline data future generations of men will be mapped against.  The information provided should help the European Commission, National Governments and local strategy development to take a more informed look at how their current policy meets the needs of men and to think seriously as to how they tackle men’s health in the future.

Further information

The report is available as a summary:

Extended version:

About the Institute for Health & Wellbeing

The Institute for Health & Wellbeing was launched at Leeds Metropolitan University on 3 November.  The Institute will undertake research into the health status of individuals and communities and will investigate issues including men’s health, healthy communities, health promotion and nutrition and childhood obesity.

The Institute for Health and Wellbeing will house a related range of disciplines within a single unit allowing innovation and collaboration to thrive. The University’s research foundations and strengths are rooted in the practical implications of research (‘the doing’) and the impact the research has on communities which will be nurtured through the work of the institute.

The Institute has six distinct yet related research themes: Healthy communities, Health promotion, Men’s health, Men, gender and wellbeing, Nutrition & childhood obesity, pain science and management


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