The French: living longer but more worn out

A new survey has found that the French are champions of longevity in Europe, but their quality of life deteriorates more quickly than that of other Europeans.

The French: living longer but more worn out
Emiliano Spada

A study by Ined has revealed that life expectancy in France is one of the best in Europe, in line with Spain. In 2010 Frenchwomen lived an average of 85.3 years – women Bulgaria, by contrast, had a life expectancy of 77.4.

Men in France could expect to live until 78.2, the eighth best in Europe.

But that’s where the good news ends. Because although the French live longer than average, the age their health starts to deteriorate is much lower.

It seems the French don’t “age well”, according to Ined. At 63.5 years old for woman and 61.9 for men, they start experiencing pains and can no longer perform “normal activities”, such as lifting the arm above the head and walking at a fast pace. 

Men in Sweden experience good health until 71.7 years, and in Malta until 70.2. Women until 71 and 71.6 respectively.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.