Trends in European Health

What health challenges will Europe be facing in 2018 ? A small overview of health threats and trends.

How will traffic accidents, cancer, ischemic heart disease and various communicable diseases contribute to Europe’s disease burden?

What responses are warranted from a political standpoint? The EU has several mandates in place, and hence also moral and politically binding obligations to safeguard the health of its citizens.

Traffic accidents

While fatal traffic accidents had been decreasing for decades, since 2014 the number of traffic accidents in Europe has seen an increase. The main culprit is smartphone usage. Approximately half of people who occasionally drive a car have indicated they have used a smartphone while driving. Most EU member states have responded by introducing heavy fines for smartphone usage whilst driving, although this has not yet proven to be very effective given the statistics.

Traffic mortalities


Cancer is still one of the leading causes of death in the EU. Have a look at the following chart from 2011. Even though it’s a couple years old (2011), it shows that cancer (neoplasms) is a significant contributor to mortality in Europe. In 2018 we are continuing this trend, as there are no indications that cancer treatments have become more effective.

Health statistics 2

Ischemic heart disease

In the graphs above it clearly shows that not only cancer is a significant cause of death in Europe, but also circulatory diseases. Due to European lifestyle noncommunicable diseases remain the greatest threat to our health.

Communicable diseases & climate change

Climate change brings forth all kinds of challenges pertaining to our health. Exotic mosquito species are gradually appearing in European regions where they had not been seen before. And with these mosquitoes, vector-borne diseases are inbound. Although the offset of a new endemic due to mosquito migration will probably not happen in 2018, in the following decades this might change. Still, climate change is already a force to be reckoned with and could cause significant harm.

In 2003, a heat wave in Europe caused tens of thousands of people to die. Especially the elderly are fragile. Heat records are continuously broken across Europe, and with some bad luck Europe might be confronted with another disastrous heat wave in the summer of 2018.

Other communicable diseases however, like HIV, are still on the decline, expect that there are still endemic tendencies in for instance Russia.


Way forward

The EU health in all policies (HIAP) approach can be used as a mandate to address the health threats we face from multiple directions. From a public health perspective, it is pivotal to take preventive measures now, in order to safeguard the population health at a later point in time. The Europe 2020 strategy, with its focus on sustainability, has an important role to play as well.

Europe 2020

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