Europeans are living longer. But since 2003, they’ve suddenly enjoyed fewer years of healthy life, say demographers

One of the extraordinary features of the 20th century was the inexorable rise in life expectancy across the world. A baby born in Italy in 1900 had a life expectancy of about 41 years. By 2010, this had risen to 81 years, a rising trend that continues.

And yet this increasing lifespan masks a dark secret. Many developed countries are suffering an epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease thanks to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. The numbers are such that they must inevitably influence the health of nations as a whole but by how much?

Today, Ugo Bardi and Virginia Perini at the University of Florence in Italy offer disturbing evidence that the health of people in Italy has fallen dramatically since 2003. And they say the same pattern is being repeated across most of Europe for reasons that are hard to explain.

While life expectancy is relatively easy to measure objectively, the quality of a nation’s health is much harder to assess. In Europe, a body known as the European Community Household Project has been monitor the health levels since 1995 using […]

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