Low life expectancy in Denmark despite high levels of health care

OECD rankings put Denmark in 25th place out of 36 countries

Last week the OECD released life expectancy figures for its member countries. Denmark was in line with the OECD average, but has the lowest life expectancy of western European countries.

The average life expectancy at birth in Denmark is 80 years: 82 for women and 78 for men. This puts the country in 25th place of a total 36 countries ranked (the 34 OECD countries and Brazil and Russia, which were included in the list for comparison).

Russia and Brazil came out worst in the rankings with average life expectancies of just 70 and 74 years respectively. The only other countries to rank below Denmark were Mexico, Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, the USA and Chile.

Health care and lifestyle count
The report highlights the role of health care spending and other lifestyle factors in determining the country averages.

“Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher health care spending per person, although many other factors have an impact on life expectancy (such as living standards, lifestyles, education and environmental factors),” the report states.

Denmark ranked highly in terms of access to medical care. It came in seventh place for health expenditure per capita, with 4,663 US dollars (about 32,000 kroner) spent per person, compared to an OECD average of 3,453 US dollars (about 24,000 kroner).

However, the report identified a relatively high level of health risks in the country. Denmark was in the middle third of the countries rated when it came to smoking in adults and alcohol consumption. It was in the best 33 percent of countries for obesity in adults, but the bottom third for obesity in children.