FROM Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, a health divide has fallen across Europe. Although in global terms citizens of the EU live long (2.5 years more than in America and 4.6 years more than in China), the continent is divided. At the farthest ends of the spectrum, Spaniards from Madrid can expect to live to 85, but Bulgarians from the region of Severozapaden are predicted to live just past their 73rd birthday—a gap of almost 12 years. The only exceptions are Slovenia, which scrapes in above the EU average, and Denmark, which falls a fraction below.

It was not always that way. In the mid-1960s Latvians and Lithuanians still blew out as many birthday candles as the citizens of Cyprus and France. But after a long period of convergence caused by reductions in child mortality, the east of the continent gradually fell behind after the iron curtain descended. Bad habits and unhealthy environments are contributory factors to chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and eastern Europe is home to more smokers and more heavy drinkers according to the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), an NGO. Hungarians face the poorest odds when it comes to chronic ill-health, but rates are also high in much of Poland, Slovakia, and Croatia.

Get our daily newsletter

Upgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor's Picks.

Latest stories

  • 9 minutes ago
  • 4 hours ago
  • 13 hours ago
  • a day ago
  • a day ago
  • a day ago

in