Chronic diseases have – apart from great social – also significant financial costs. In Greece, the percentage of the population with such health problems is around 24%, according to the latest OECD health report.
These are data concerning 2021 which the Organization made public, ranking our country in the lowest positions of the relevant list. which the Economic Post presents today.
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Only Italy and Romania had lower percentages than Greece – below 20% – as well as Bulgaria with a percentage very close to that of Greece. On the contrary, the highest percentages were recorded in Finland (over 50%), in Estonia (about 48%), in Portugal and in Germany (about 43%).
In fact, according to the OECD study, most chronic diseases are presented by the poorest and not the richest, underscoring once again socio-economic inequalities.
In OECD countries, an average of 43% of people in the bottom 20% of incomes report a long-term illness or health problem. The corresponding figure for the 20% of those with the highest income is at much lower levels, at 27%
This income gap is largest in Lithuania, Belgium, Estonia and Ireland, where people in the bottom 20% of the income group are twice or more likely to have at least one long-term illness or other major health problem , compared to people with higher incomes.
The income gap
This income gap in health is smaller in Italy and Turkey. The gap also appears small in Greece, with the corresponding percentages being around 25% and 20% between the poorest and the richest.
In any case, the OECD warns that national health systems must be increasingly prepared to provide high-quality chronic care management to meet the needs of an – on average – aging population.
Diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory problems and diabetes are classified as chronic diseases. These are not only the leading causes of death in OECD countries, but are also a significant burden on society and the economy, as noted.
On average, in 2021 more than a third of people aged 16 and over reported living with a long-term illness or health condition in 24 of the OECD countries. In addition, as populations age more and more, chronic diseases are on the rise.
The impact of the pandemic
Many chronic diseases can be prevented by addressing major risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, obesity and lack of exercise, it says. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the impact of chronic conditions compared to other diseases, as data shows that people with underlying such conditions are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19, the OECD data further shows. The pandemic has also contributed to the increase in deaths from chronic diseases and their delayed diagnosis and treatment.
Problems from diabetes
One of the most important chronic diseases is diabetes, the OECD also reports. In fact, the financial burden of diabetes is very high. In 2021 in OECD countries, an estimated $650 billion was spent on treating diabetes and preventing its complications, the Organization reports.
It has a particularly heavy burden on disability creations, causing cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. In 2021, 6.9% of the adult population was living with diabetes on average in OECD countries. In addition, an estimated 48 million adults in OECD countries have undiagnosed diabetes.
Age-adjusted diabetes rates have stabilized in many OECD countries over the past decade, especially in Western Europe. However, they have increased significantly in Turkey, Iceland and Spain, with increases of 60% or more, as well as in OECD partner countries such as Indonesia and South Africa.
Such upward trends are due in part to rising rates of obesity, poor nutrition and physical inactivity, as well as their interactions with an aging population, the Agency says.