Berlin - A quarter of century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the state of health in the old and new federal states has largely equalized. But there are further differences, as an overview by the Robert Koch Institute in "GBE compact" shows.
The hardest indicator of health is life expectancy. At the beginning of the 1990s, women in the old federal states lived 2.3 years longer than in the new federal states. Today life expectancy in East and West has become more similar (a difference of 0.2 years in 2009/2011 is hardly relevant). For men, the 3.2 year difference has not yet been fully made up. Men died in the new federal states 1.4 years earlier than in the old ones in 2009/11.
Yes the old east-west divide is increasingly being overlaid by north-east-south-west divide. This is particularly evident in the life expectancy of people over 60. Men have the fewest remaining years of life in parts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt. Life expectancy at the age of 60 is highest for women in Baden-Württemberg and parts of Bavaria. In Saxony, life expectancy of 60 years is no longer lower than in Lower Saxony or North Rhine-Westphalia.
One of the main reasons for the continuing differences between West and East is the increased mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases. In the early 1990s, it was around 1.5 times higher for both sexes in the new federal states than in the old federal states. Since then, cardiovascular mortality has declined in both parts, but the East has not yet caught up with the West. Saxony-Anhalt has the highest cardiovascular death rate, followed by Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony, the lowest values, after Hamburg and Berlin, are recorded by the regional states of Baden-Württemberg and Hesse.
Before the reunification, there were hardly any differences in cancer with two exceptions: women in the east died less often from lung cancer than in the west because they smoked less often. It was the other way around with men. In the meantime, smoking habits in West and East have become more similar. In both parts, the mortality rate for women is increasing and for men it is slowly decreasing.
With breast cancer, mortality is still higher in the east than in the west. The reason is not entirely clear. During the GDR era, the higher mortality rate was attributed to the younger age of the first-time mothers and the higher number of births. The influence should have decreased by now. However, the development of mortality from breast cancer to date does not indicate this.
Unhealthy way of life in the GDR The higher mortality rate in the GDR is associated with the unhealthy way of life of the population. In the GDR there were significantly more obese people, there was more smoking (men only) and alcohol than in the West and - despite the success at the Olympic Games - less sport was done. In the meantime, the differences have equalized.
In the case of men, the West has even overtaken the East: If in 1990/1992 17.3 percent of 25 to 69 year olds in the old federal states were obese, it is 2008/2011 already 24.6 percent. In the new federal states the share “only” rose from 21.7 to 23.9 percent. Among women, the proportion of obese adults has decreased from 26.8 to 25.8 percent, but is still higher than in the west, where the proportion rose from 19.5 to 22.5 percent.
< strong> Alcohol consumption in the new federal states continues to be higher The consumption of alcoholic beverages in the GDR was relatively high, even in an international comparison. Even today there are still differences to the former FRG: In the age group of 40 to 49 year old men, 37.1 percent in the east and 28.5 percent in the west show risky alcohol consumption. In the age group 50 to 59 years it is 38.9 compared to 27.8 percent. Even among teenagers, alcohol consumption is even higher in the east than in the west: the proportion of 12 to 17-year-old boys who have already consumed alcohol was 73.3 percent in the east and 66.7 percent in the west. In both parts of the country, however, the numbers are falling.