Education makes you healthy – NÖ

On average, Austrians are only healthy for 57 years of their lives – according to a Eurostat study in 2019. Sports clubs and politicians in particular like to refer to this number. Healthy years of life are those years that a person is likely to spend in good health. At 57 years of age, Austria is in the bottom third of the EU average.

“You first have to consider how valid the survey really is,” says Susanne Rabady from Karl Landsteiner University. Because: Of course, healthy years of life are always related to subjective feelings and cultural differences. “What we are observing is an east-west divide, for example in metabolic diseases,” Rabady continues. In Vienna, in Burgenland and also in Lower Austria there are significantly more people who are overweight. “And with it more people with secondary diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure”. According to Rabady, whether you are and remain healthy or sick clearly does not only depend on your diet and lifestyle.

Socioeconomic factors are important

Of course, it is important to take care of the body – such as through exercise and nutrition, not smoking – but according to Rabady that is not enough. Among other things, “self-care” is decisive here – i.e. on the one hand finding out what is good for the person physically, mentally and emotionally and also implementing these things. And also: “The socio-economic status is often left out,” says the doctor.

Public health expert Martin Sprenger also confirms that socio-economic factors such as education and income play a key role in health. “If Austria were to invest a lot of money in early education, this would have a positive impact on the healthy years of life,” says Sprenger.

Orientation towards repair medicine

Bernhard Rupp, head of health policy at AK Niederösterreich, explains the below-average healthy years of life in Austria primarily with the lack of health literacy among Austrians: “Unfortunately, knowledge of health-promoting behavior around nutrition and exercise is not good in Austria”.

The problem is that far too little is invested in health promotion or early prevention in Austria. “We are still too oriented towards reparative medicine and too often leave people alone on their way to the disease. Hopefully we can make the jump to support and education soon.” Men in particular are often more severely affected than women by the problem of below-average healthy years of life. “Men tend to be reluctant to take precautions,” says Rupp, and the fact that men’s lifestyles tend to be more risky is often the deciding factor.

unhealthy society

In 2012 Austria set itself ten framework health targets. “If we were to implement these goals, we would also be able to increase the number of healthy years of life,” says Sprenger. The fact is, however, that the goals are hardly known – and politicians therefore do not feel responsible. The Corona crisis and the current price increases would once again affect the health of many.

Education and social affairs have and will suffer as a result, “and that will have a massive impact. We are drifting further apart socially and societally. And an unequal society is also an unhealthy society,” explains Sprenger. He fears a “not rosy future”. For lasting health, a good foundation would have to be built in childhood and adolescence, but this is currently not provided. “We don’t manage to see the big picture,” Sprenger concludes.

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