EU survey: Girls in Malta live longer, healthier lives

Girls in Malta and boys in Sweden have the highest number of expected healthy life years, according to the Healthy Life Years

Girls in Malta can expect live longer and healthier lives
Girls in Malta can expect live longer and healthier lives

Girls in Malta can expect to live more than 10 years longer without disability or disease than the European Union average, an EU-wide survey has revealed.

The Healthy Life Years (HLY) shows that girls in Malta and boys in Sweden have the highest number of expected healthy life years, 74.3 years and 73.6 years respectively.  

Not to be confused with life expectancy, the Healthy Life Years indicator measures the number of remaining years that a person of a certain age is still supposed to live without disability. 

The latest statistics are based on 2014 figures. Maltese women already had the highest number of healthy life years when the index was first published in 2011.

At the other end of the scale, boys in Latvia and girls in Slovakia are expected to live 9.9 and 7.2 years less in good health, respectively, than the EU average. 

The HLY measure was developed to reflect the fact that not all years of a person’s life are typically lived in perfect health. Chronic disease, frailty, and disability tend to become more prevalent at older ages, so that a population with a higher life expectancy may not be healthier.

Indeed, a major question with an ageing population is whether increases in life expectancy will be associated with a greater or lesser proportion of the future population spending their years living with disability. If HLY is increasing more rapidly than life expectancy in a population, then not only are people living longer, they are also living a greater portion of their lives free of disability.

This remarkable statistic is featured in the publication ‘Sustainable development in the EU (2016)’, a statistical overview of where the EU and its Member States stand in the areas relevant for sustainable development, and in this way it will contribute to better informed decisions for a sustainable European future. 

Malta a laggard in recycling and eco innovation

The statistical overview refers to Eurostat statistics showing that Malta is one of the three countries that recycle the lowest percentage of their municipal waste.  Significantly, statistics show a drop in the percentage of recycled household waste from 12.6% in 2013 to 10.9% in 2014.

The lowest rates in Europe are reported in Slovakia (10.3%), Malta (10.9%) and Romania (13.0%). 

Central and northern Member States which have strict regulations on waste management tend to recycle more of their municipal waste. Germany has by far the highest recycling rate in the EU (63.8%). 

But three quarters of Member States have a recycling rate below the overall EU figure. This may be explained by the fact that several Mediterranean and eastern Member States recycle less than 20% of their municipal waste, whereas Germany recycles over 60% of its municipal waste. 

The statistical overview also refers to Malta’s low performance in the eco innovation index, in which Malta ranks 25th with a score of 64.

The index shows how well individual Member States perform in different dimensions of eco-innovation compared to the EU average of 100. The overall performance of EU countries ranges from around 50 in Bulgaria to 167 in Denmark. 

According to the Eco-innovation index the development of eco-innovation in Malta is hindered by a mix of natural constraints and structural challenges, including the country’s small size and insularity, limited potential to develop renewable energy sources, a weak human resources base in science and technologies, limited capacity and readiness for research and innovation on behalf of local firms, and relatively low levels of investment in R&D.

The Nordic countries as well as Ireland, Germany and Luxembourg belong to the eco-innovation leaders in the EU, scoring more than 20% above the EU average.

With the exception of Ireland and Luxembourg, these countries are also characterised by above-average expenditure in research and development. 

At the lower end of the spectrum are eastern European countries, Greece and the small southern European island countries, Cyprus and Malta, where eco-innovation seems to be still weakly developed.

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