How bad habits are threatening the health of the French nation

How bad habits are threatening the health of the French nation
People in France have a long life expectancy, despite some bad habits. Photo: AFP
A global healthcare study has given France's health system a good report, but warned that too many French people are still smoking and drinking too much.

The OECD's Health at a Glance 2019 report ranks France highly for aspects such as the quality, availability and cost of healthcare, but warns about bad habits that threaten the nation's health.

Life expectancy for people in France remains high at 82.4, ninth in the list of developed countries and above the OECD average of 80.7 but behind Japan at 84.2.

The French healthcare system came out well both in general – for accessibility – and in some specific categories like survival rates after a stroke or heart attack, in which category came sixth.

In total French people pay for just two percent of their healthcare costs, while the state or health insurers pick up the rest.

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In terms of accessibility, the report found that 89 percent of the population had easy access to a doctor, while screening services such as the cervical caner screening programme for women were also praised.

France was also one of the countries that spent the highest amounts on healthcare – 11 percent of gross domestic product or €4,500 per person.

Within the healthcare system, the only black mark for France was its level of antibiotic use – 23 daily doses per 1,000 inhabitants, while the OECD average is 18. This figure is not improving, despite public health campaigns urging people to stop asking their doctors for antibiotic for minor ailments.

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Overall, the report found that 8.3 percent of the population are in poor health, slightly better than the OECD average of 8.5 percent.

However where France scored poorly was in the bad habits of its population.

The French drink an average of 11.7 litres of alcohol per year, significantly higher than the OECD average of 8.9 litres and the third worst out of the 45 countries.

Rates of alcoholism were also 30 percent higher than the OECD average.

Smoking rates were also high, with one in four French adults smoking, against an OECD average of 18 percent.

France has the highest rate of smoking in western Europe and only five countries – Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Greece and Indonesia – have more smokers.

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This stores up problems for the future as a population of smokers and heavy drinks ages, and the report warns that by 2030 France will have to devote 13 percent of its GDP to healthcare, which may not be affordable.

READ ALSO People in France live longer and healthier lives, study shows


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