France residents in better health than other countries, study shows

The report found that France has particularly improved on life expectancy since 1990

A view of someone holding out a carte Vitale (for the French health system)
The report said that France’s good health results are largely linked to the national health system, which provides a good standard of care at a relatively low cost
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People in France are in good health compared to their neighbours in other Western European countries, and their health overall has significantly improved in the past few decades, a new study has found.

There are notably fewer people with cardiovascular problems and conditions in France.

The work was carried out by researchers at the medical institute l’Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm), and at Bordeaux University and the Bordeaux CHU (hospital), with assistance from Santé publique France (SPF) and the national health service l'Assurance maladie.

It was shared by the Assurance maladie and published in the journal Lancet Regional Health.

It studied the period from 1990 to 2019 with one of its major sources being the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) programme, financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is designed to bring together health data from most countries.

It also considered factors including healthy life expectancy, years of life lost, and years lived with disability.

Good in France: Cardiovascular health, life expectancy

The report showed that those in France have fewer cardiovascular issues in comparison to other Western European countries, and “analysis shows that French health indicators are among the best in Europe”, the researchers said.

This is also particularly true when it comes to healthy life expectancy.

“Over the period reviewed between 1990 to 2019, life expectancy at birth in France improved over time,” said the Assurance maladie.

The report concluded that life expectancy at birth in France improved from 77.2 years in 1990 to 82.9 years in 2019. This was the seventh highest life expectancy out of 23 Western European countries.

The report concluded that these good results are largely linked to the French national health system, which provides a good standard of care at a relatively low cost, particularly when compared to other nations.

Read more: ‘Healthy’ life expectancy is increasing in France

Less good in France: Cancer and tobacco use

However the study also showed that France has made less progress on reducing certain types of cancer (although levels of the most common types are still relatively low), and in reducing tobacco use, which is in itself one of the major causes of cancer.

The study only looks at figures to 2019, meaning it does not account for any changes since the Covid-19 pandemic. This period could have caused significant differences, as Covid caused a major spike in the number of illnesses and deaths, and also had a huge, long-term impact on the functioning of the health system.

The report is now intended to be a reference document, “which might be important for policymakers”, the researchers stated. They said: “To our knowledge, this is the first study using GBD indicators with a specific focus to France.”

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