Why are western people so open-minded

East and West are so healthy

Berlin. Despite all social rifts: When it comes to health, the differences between East and West Germany have decreased significantly or almost equalized 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This emerges from the current federal health reports by the Berlin Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Federal Statistical Office.

Most recently, the federal government had also painted a largely positive picture of health care in East and West. All over Germany, people “today can rely on high-quality medical care”, according to the recently submitted report on German unity.

It is noticeable that the convergence in terms of health in many areas has already taken place in the first ten years after reunification, emphasize the RKI and the Federal Statistical Office in their report.

East has caught up with the west

The alignment is primarily due to positive developments that have taken place more quickly in the new federal states than in the old. This applies, for example, to the increase in life expectancy or the decrease in cardiovascular mortality.

Sometimes the rapprochement came about because the East opened up to the West “in a more negative sense” and copied habits that were harmful to health more strongly than before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The increase in tobacco consumption among East German women in the 1990s is cited as an example.

While the average life expectancy of women in the old federal states was more than two years higher than that of women in the new federal states at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this difference has now completely disappeared: in both East and West women live on average 83.2 years old (see table below).

In men, there has been no convergence in life expectancy. However, the east-west difference has become much smaller. Men in the east live on average 77.2 years old and in the west on average 78.6 years old. At the beginning of the 1990s, there was still a good three years difference in life expectancy between “over there” and “over there”.

According to the report, mortality from cardiovascular diseases in the new federal states has approached that in the old over the past 30 years. In 1990 cardiovascular mortality in the former GDR was 1.52 times that of women and 1.44 times that of men.

After that, the "excess mortality" sank. Most recently, it was 1.18 times for women and 1.24 times for men, according to the report.

Where are there differences?

In the case of new cancer cases, the following picture emerges: women in the new federal states have lower incidence rates than women in the old ones. It is the other way around for men. The differences have hardly changed in the past few years. Mortality is declining, but differs only slightly between the new and old countries for women.

The most common new cancer cases in women in East and West are breast cancer (30.5 percent) and colon cancer (12.3 percent). However, women in the old federal states develop breast cancer more often than in the new federal states.

The death rates from breast cancer are also around 20 percent higher in the west than in the east. According to the report, higher birth rates, a lower age at the birth of the first child, less frequent childlessness and other lifestyle factors are considered as “protective factors for women in East Germany”.

In men, prostate cancer (23 percent) and lung cancer (13.9 percent) are the most common new cancer cases in both East and West. With regard to lung cancer in women, it can be seen that the differences have increased because mortality is faster in the old countries has risen than in the new.

This was due to a higher proportion of women smokers in the old federal states, especially before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was only in the past few years that smoking rates between East and West have become more similar (see table below).

More common depression in the west

Regarding mental illnesses, the report states that the differences between East and West are "rather small". While "some" mental disorder was found in almost 37 of the women in the new federal states, it is almost 34 percent in women in the old. Among men, the prevalence is a good 20 percent in the new federal states compared to 23 percent in the old federal states.

However, depression was diagnosed more often in the old federal states. As a possible explanation, the report names differences in the supply system in addition to the different spread of disease. In the old federal states there is a much higher density of care for psychotherapists. As a result, there are “better possibilities for diagnosis”.

A comparison of the obesity prevalence in the individual federal states shows that it is particularly high in eastern Germany - over 20 percent each in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (see table below).

At the end of their report, the authors emphasize that a look at the remaining differences between East and West Germany might “fall short”. Instead, a smaller-scale consideration should be sought.

This should be less based on cardinal points and should take greater account of possible differences in health and medical care between urban and rural areas - across the whole of Germany. (Cooperation: ths)