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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 March 31; 334(7595): 656.
PMCID: PMC1839214

Irish people have highest estimation of their own health in Europe

Irish men and women consider themselves the healthiest people in Europe, while Hungarians have the lowest levels of self reported

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According to a report, eastern European countries stand out as the countries in which people report the poorest health (Social Science and Medicine 2007;64:1665-78, doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.11.031).

In all but one country, Finland, men rated their health higher than women, with substantial differences in 13 countries.

Analysis of the survey results shows that differences among individuals explained 60% of the difference between countries, and 40% was explained by national differences.

“At the individual-level we find that characteristics, such as age, education, economic satisfaction, social network, unemployment, and occupational status are strongly related to health, both for women and men,” say the authors.

“Among the country-level characteristics, socio-economic development, measured as gross domestic product per capita, is the indicator that is most strongly associated with better health.”

In the study, the authors, from Norway's Institute for Research in Economics and Business, examined self reported health among men and women in 21 European countries as a way of analysing how factors at both individual and country level influence health. They say it is one of the first papers to include both individual and country level factors in looking at health differences between countries.

Using data from the European social survey, the study says that men and women in the United Kingdom and Ireland and in Scandinavia reported the best health. People in eastern European countries reported the poorest health. The study included data from 38 472 people.

The study found that living with a partner is beneficial to men's health but has no significant effect for women. Having children, however, is negatively related to men's health and unrelated to women's: “The most consistent finding seems to be that marriage/cohabitation is more beneficial to men, than to women.”

Economic satisfaction was strongly related to health for men and women. People who said they lived comfortably and coped on their present income were more likely to have reported better health. A social network was also associated with better health for both women and men.

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