Life expectancy of socially-vulnerable increasing biennially by a year since 2009 – report

Ben Hamilton
March 31st, 2023

Both local and drug-related initiatives have certainly played a part in preventing premature deaths

Certainly the segment of society considered socially-vulnerable has decreased sharply since the 19th century (photo: Statens Museum for Kunst)

Danish welfare is often lauded as some of the best in the world; the country has a reputation for looking after its own – particularly the vulnerable.

As far as the authorities are concerned, they are ‘socially-disadvantaged’, not simply homeless – even though the definition identifies somebody who is a regular user of shelters, hostels, care homes, hothouses, night cafes, and housing offers.

It’s a sign of respect and indication of how much investment they have in their well-being.

So it’s with great joy that the Danish system can celebrate a seven-year leap in the life expectancy of a ‘socially-disadvantaged’ person, from 57 to 64, since 2009, according to figures released by Statens Institut for Folkesundhed. 

Catching up, but still a long way short
Nevertheless, the life expectancy is still 17 years short of the age the general population can hope to live until: 81 – an increase of two years since 2009.

“It indicates that someone is doing something right, but it is still an insanely high difference in life expectancy,” commented Kira West, the chair of Rådet for Socialt Udsatte, the council for socially-vulnerable people, to DR.

West contends that ‘socially-disadvantaged’ people need better access to healthcare, as they only tend to be hospitalised once they have become extremely ill – and often it can be too late to save them.

“The socially disadvantaged die of diseases that the rest of us can easily live with or be cured of,” she said.

More initiatives: both local and drug-related
One area in which the authorities have seen a lot of progress is protecting socially-vulnerable people from dying prematurely from drug overdoses.

Since the introduction of mobile drug injection rooms (‘fixerum’) just over a decade ago, fatalities are rarely heard of. A sample taken in Copenhagen, Odense and Aarhus between 2012 and 2015 revealed 301 overdoses but not one single death.

Meanwhile, a great many hospitals are introducing their own initiatives to help socially-vulnerable people in their catchment areas.

For example, Bispebjerg Hospital opened a flex clinic in January that welcomes patients who do not have a GP or MitID.

READ MORE: Freeing up a room to the homeless youth of Copenhagen


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