Society - Figures

Health and care

Both male and female healthy life expectancy have changed over the past few decades. Men born in 1987 can expect to live in good health for 60.5 years; for women this is 63.5 years. In 2002, healthy life expectancy had risen to 62.0 years for men and declined to 61.9 years for women.  This rose further to 65 years for men in 2017 and rose as well, to 63.8 years, for women.

As of the early 1980s, healthy life expectancy at birth increased for men from 60 to reach 65 years on average in 2017. In the same period, healthy life expectancy for women did not rise as much. It stood at over 62 years in 1981 – slightly higher than for men – but had remained below 64 years by 2017. Healthy life expectancy (HALE) is defined as the number of years that a person can expect to live in good health.

The share of smokers has declined since 2001 (among the population aged 12 years and over) and dropped from 33 to 21 percent in 2018. The share of heavy smokers (for example 20 or more cigarettes per day) fell from 10 to 3 percent over the same period.

In 2018, the share of e-cigarette smokers was 3 percent among those aged 12 and over, with hardly anyone in this group over the age of 75.

In 2018, 40 percent of the adult population (ages 18 and up) complied with the Health Council’s low-risk alcohol drinking advice to abstain or consume no more than one standard drink per day. The remaining 60 percent have more than one standard drink a day on average. Least compliant with the guideline are people in their twenties at 28 percent (for example 72 percent consume more than one standard drink a day). Over-70s are most likely to comply with the guideline at 54 percent.

Adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 (kg/m2) or more are considered obese. Compared to the early 1980s, obesity is three times more prevalent nowadays among people aged 20 years and over (from 5 to 15 percent). Obesity can be broken down into three categories: class I (a BMI of 30 to <35), class II (35 to <40) and class 3 (40 or higher). Class I obesity is most prevalent. This is also the category with the strongest increase: from over 4 percent in 1981 to 11 percent in 2018. The share of people with class II or III obesity has risen as well. These types of obesity were still very rare in the early 1980s.

In 2017, Dutch pharmacies dispensed cholesterol-lowering medication to almost 13 percent of men and over 10 percent of women. Ten years previously, this share was lower by one-quarter for both men and women. As of 2012, the increase has slowed down relative to previous years.

In 2017, cholesterol-lowering medicines were dispensed to nearly 13 percent of men and over 10 percent of women. For both men and women, the share was up by around 25 percent in a span of ten years. As of 2012, the number of people who were prescribed such medication has risen relatively less rapidly. Cholesterol-lowering medicines were dispensed most frequently to people in the age group 75 to 84 years, with nearly 45 percent receiving such medicines. At all ages, cholestor-lowering prescription medicines are taken by more men than women. (Source: CBS, Zorginstituut)

In 2017, cancer mortality stood at 45 thousand while cardiovascular mortality was 38 thousand. Since 2016, more women die of cancer than of cardiovascular disease. For men, this had been the case ten years previously already. In the period 1970–2017, cardiovascular mortality declined sharply by over 70 percent (taking into account differences in age composition of the population). Cancer mortality rose among men until the late 1980s but this was followed by a decline. Among women, it has seen a slow decline from 290 to 236 per 100 thousand women.

For the first time in 2014, women were in the majority among general practitioners. In 2017 there were 6,855 female and 5,570 male GPs. Twenty years ago, only one-quarter of GPs were women. On average, female GPs are a lot younger than their male colleagues. In 2017, 59 percent were under the age of 45. The share of under-45s among male GPs is 28 percent. One-third of all male GPs are over the age of 60. The share of over-60s among female GPs is 8 percent. In the coming years the female majority will grow larger.

As of 2015, the Long-term Act (Wlz) provides care for vulnerable elderly and people with disabilities who need permanent care or supervision. In 2017, related expenditure amounted to 56 thousand euros on average per person receiving long-term care. Among people below the age of 70, the majority were receiving care for the disabled. Among the elderly (over 70) it was mainly related to nursing and care, which are on average slightly less expensive forms of long-term care. These are expenses related to care in kind, i.e. stay in an institution or high-level residential care and do not include care which is paid through personal budgets (pgb).

In the early 1980s, the average length of stay in a Dutch hospital was almost two weeks. This includes all hospital admissions for at least one nursing day. Up until 2012, hospital stays became progressively shorter. The trend then came to a halt with no further reduction in length of stay, ending at 5.2 days on average. The longest-staying hospital patients are the elderly, but this was also the group with the greatest reduction in length of stay. Whereas people over the age of 65 received three weeks of hospital care in the early 1980s, nowadays they are likely to be dismissed from hospital within a week on average.


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Opening page and header: © Hollandse Hoogte / Martijn Beekman

Society - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Patricia Rehe

Economy - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Marcel Krijgsman

Labour and income - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Sabine Joosten


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