Germany: Every 5th Person Can’t Afford Healthy Lifestyle
According to a new study by PwC every 5th person in Germany can’t afford a healthy lifestyle.
45% of Germans say they suffer from at least one chronic disease, which go hand in hand with unhealthy lifestyles fueled by private industry interests such as alcohol, tobacco use, and poor nutrition. PwC, an auditing firm, conducted a survey to explore why Germans are not changing their lifestyle to healthier behavior.
What they found is that a fifth of the respondents said a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and enough exercise was not affordable to them. Social isolation may also be playing a role, as 14% of the respondents claimed to be isolated.
The biggest hurdles for a healthy lifestyle turned out to be too little sleep, lack of motivation and addiction. A fifth cited lack of time as the reason.
As IOGT International previously reported, Germany is facing an increase in addictions such as for painkillers and cannabis and still has one of the highest rates of alcohol use in the world. All these are factors for unhealthy lifestyles and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases that are fuelled by unhealthy commodity industries.
Beyond personal responsibility – commercial and social determinants of health
An unhealthy diet, alcohol and tobacco use and too little physical activity all increase the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart, lung and mental health diseases – the so called non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The reason why not more Germans are leading more healthy lives is their socio-economic status.
The PwC study shows that there is a clear link between socio-economic and health status of people in Germany.
The good news is that the PwC survey found that two thirds of the respondents would like to change their lifestyles and lead healthier lives. However, respondents say lacked enough knowledge about the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.
30% of the respondents were sure they would live healthier if they were better informed.
But the health insurers in Germany conduct awareness and information campaigns about health risks as well as about healthy lifestyles. This shows that health literacy alone is not capable of promoting health. Environments need to be changed so as to give people with lower socio-economic resources a chance to make healthy choices and live and work in healthy environments.
For example, published in September 2019, WHO Europe’s first-ever Health Equity Status Report revealed that health inequities in Germany have not changed or become worse.
The report also provides new evidence about the drivers of health inequities. It finds that many of the critical factors that are driving health inequities are not being sufficiently addressed by countries like Germany. The researchers identified five critical factors and assigned to each a percentage reflecting its contribution to the overall burden of inequity.
- Income security and social protection (35%): About 35% of health inequities result from “not being able to make ends meet”. People affected may include those in full-time employment who regularly struggle to afford the basic goods and services necessary to live a dignified, decent and independent life; these are the so-called working poor.
The effects of living in poverty during the early years and childhood are strongly associated with increased risks of adopting health-harming behaviours, such as smoking, […] alcohol and [other] drug use during adolescence. This association extends to increased development of chronic ill health, including diabetes, cancer, CVD and respiratory disease in later life,” says the report.
- Living conditions (29%): This factor includes issues such as unaffordability or unavailability of decent homes, lack of food and lack of fuel to heat the home or cook a meal. It also extends to unsafe neighbourhoods and violence in the home; overcrowded, damp and unsanitary housing conditions; and polluted neighbourhoods. This factor accounts for 29% of health inequities.
- Social and human capital (19%): These factors, which account for 19% of health inequities, refer to feelings of isolation, low levels of trust in others and the sense of having no one to ask for help, as well as feelings of being less able to influence politics and change things for the better. They also include violence against women, lack of participation in education and lack of lifelong learning.
- Access to and quality of health care (10%): Health systems’ failure to provide universal access to good-quality services, and high levels of out-of-pocket payments for health, are responsible for 10% of health inequities. Out-of-pocket payments may force people to choose between using essential health services and providing for other basic needs.
- Employment and working conditions (7%): An inability to participate fully in the labour market, which affects the quality of day-to-day life and longer-term life chances, accounts for 7% of health inequities. Quality of employment is equally important, as insecure or temporary jobs and poor working conditions have a similarly negative effect on health.