Alcohol and Smoking Use Highest in Europe

The World Health Organisation has this month published its annual European Health Report (EHR). This report reveals Europe's youth smoke and drink more than anywhere else in the world. The report also claims more than 60% of Europeans are overweight or clinically obese, meaning Europeans narrowly fell second behind America in the global obesity ranking.

If this trend continues then European's life expectancy is likely to fall for the first time in centuries. Many of Europe's youth will not live as long as their grandparents did before them.

Because of their unhealthy lifestyle, many Europeans are putting themselves at an increased risk of suffering so-called 'non-communicable diseases (NCDs)' such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Brits, Poles and Austrians are the fattest people in Europe.

The WHO's report also reveals Europeans drink an average amount of 11 litres of pure alcohol per person. Around 30% of Europe's population smoke tobacco.

Life expectancy statistics for individual European countries (2013)

For life expectancy, there exists a huge variations between individual European regions. There exists an incredible eleven-year difference between the lowest and highest rates of life expectancy. The Spanish, Italians and French can expect to live for around 82 years whilst people who live in old 'Eastern Bloc' countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania can expect to live for around 71 years of age. co

The report said there are unacceptable 'health inequalities' between European states that must be tackled.

The below table reveals average life expectancy in individual European countries:

LocationLife Expectancy (2013)
European Union (28 countries)79.9
European Union (27 countries)79.9
Euro area (19 countries)80.9
Euro area (18 countries)81.0
Euro area (17 countries)81.0
Euro area (16 countries)81.1
Czech Republic77.5
Germany (until 1990 former territory of the FRG)80.2
Germany (including former GDR)80.2
France (metropolitan)81.2

What the experts say

WHO Europe's head of information, evidence, research and innovation, Claudia Stein, said: "Europeans drink and smoke more than anyone else. We are world champions – and it's not a good record."

"If rates of smoking and alcohol consumption and obesity do not decline we may risk the gains in life expectancy we have seen, which may mean that the next generation may lead shorter lives than we do."

"Although smoking rates are going down everywhere – we have very few exceptions – but obesity is increasing and one does not offset the other."

"What we do not want to see is that we are winning the war against alcohol and smoking but losing the war against obesity."

The WHO's European regional director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said: "There is a very real risk that these gains [in life expectancy] will be lost if smoking and alcohol consumption continue at the current rate. This is especially relevant to young people, who may not live as long as their grandparents."

All is now doom and gloom (yet!)

Despite Europe's alcohol, smoking and obesity crisis, Europeans are still believed to increase their life expectancy year-on-year until around 2020. This increase in life expectancy is expected to 'improve' by around 1.5% per year until 2020.

This increase in life expectancy over the next half a decade is due to a decline in illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.