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Low health expectancy has become a major problem across the globe especially in developing countries. The definition of healthy life expectancy by World Health Organization is the average number of years a human being is expected to live without any health problems (OECD 2010).
One of the factors contributing to low health expectancy is alcohol consumption among adults. Excessive consumption of alcohol contributes to a great global health burden both in terms of mortality and morbidity. Alcoholism is associated with a number of harmful health consequences such as risks of vascular, stroke and heart diseases, liver cirrhosis, and certain types of cancer. It affects the general health of individuals and exposes them to poor health or even early death. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy exposes a fetus to risks of intellectual impairments and birth defects. These defects have an overall impact on the health of a baby even after birth (OECD 2009). In most cases, such babies grow with health problems and sometimes they may not even reach maturity. This, in turn, contributes to ever-increasing low health expectancy. In addition, alcohol contributes to cases of disability and sometimes death through injuries, accidents, assaults, homicide, and suicide, which are estimated to cause more than two million deaths every year (OECD 2009).
Another major health concern that is affecting health expectancy is obesity and overweight among people of all occupations and mostly from developed countries. Obesity is a risk factor for a number of health problems, among which are high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, musculoskeletal diseases, and respiratory problems. Mortality rises sharply when overweight threshold is crossed (OECD 2010). Recent research shows that more than half of population in the European Union is overweight or obese. It presents great health risks and has a direct impact on life expectancy of individuals.
Socio-economic inequality is another cause for lowering healthy life expectancy among people across the globe. Whether accessed by education, income, or occupation, socio-economic status has a close connection to a variety of health problems including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, low birth weight, cancer, and life expectancy in general (Mackenbach 2002). People with better education are likely to have higher expectancy than people with lower education since they possess better skills and information on health-related issues. Moreover, education shapes the future for individuals through earning potentials and occupational opportunities. People with no education lack basic information on the right way of life and on methods of how to promote their health. Having high incomes enables people to access medical services and facilities without problems unlike low-income earners who are not able to get quality health services. Low-income earners, therefore, have a lower life expectancy than high-income earners.
Governments need to come up with ways of dealing with these risks factors in order to improve low healthy life expectancy. One of the ways of dealing with alcoholism is curbing advertisements of alcoholic drinks, imposing sales restrictions, and increasing taxation on alcoholic drinks. Strict controls on sales of alcohol have worked in Nordic countries resulting in lower alcohol consumption levels (OECD 2009). In other countries like France, Italy, and Spain, reduced alcohol consumption was caused by statutory and voluntary regulations on alcohol advertisements.
The main cause of obesity is bad eating habits and lack of exercises. Majority of adults are too busy in either their offices or businesses so they barely have time to have a meal or exercise. The result is indulgence in junk foods, saturated with oil and salt, which eventually leads to overweight. Dealing with obesity requires a complete change in lifestyles. People should engage in exercises at least thirty minutes every day to lower the risk of obesity and related problems. Employees need screening and health education, accessibility to healthy food, a place and time to exercise, and information on how exercising can be beneficial. The outcome of this opportunity will be more productive, healthier employees resulting in high job satisfaction (OECD 2010). In return, it will also increase life expectancy of people.
Socio-economic problems can be solved through welfare benefits and addressing the link between health and income inequality. Governments should strive to provide medical care to low-income earners so they do not have to suffer due to lack of funds to access medical services (Cohen 2008). Training and information should be available to such people in order for them to understand the importance of living healthy. A number of community health workers should be increased so they can take care of people who cannot attend healthcare facilities. In this way, life expectancy of people will eventually improve.
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A few decades ago, life expectancy was very high with people living up to over 100 years. However, as lifestyles and living habits have changed, life expectancy started going down to as low as 60 years in some countries. People started engaging in life-threatening practices like poor eating habits and overindulgence in alcohol. These choices result in lifestyle-related diseases which are claiming a great number of lives especially in developed countries. Tough economic conditions also have an impact on healthy life expectancy with people experiencing hard economic conditions likely to die early due to lack of medical services. Handling these factors is the only way through which life expectancy will go up again. Reducing alcohol consumption and embracing healthy eating habits will go a long way in promoting people’s health and lives. Governments should also embark on dealing with inequality problems so that all people will be able to access quality and affordable health services (Mackenbach 2002).
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