Doctors at large

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People in the OECD area are living longer and healthier lives. Improved lifestyles are one reason, as are better medical treatments. But could the number of doctors also be a contributing factor?

After all, in most European countries at least, the absolute number of doctors has increased between 2000 and 2012. Overall, looking at the entire period, there were about 20% more doctors in 2012 compared with 2000. From 2000 to 2012, there were 50% more doctors in the United Kingdom, 20% more in Germany, 40% more in Spain, one-third more in Portugal and in the Netherlands (2011). The exceptions are France and the Czech Republic, where the number of doctors has remained relatively stable over the period, while life expectancy has also improved.

Furthermore, the trend clearly rose both before and after the 2008 world economic crisis: in the UK, there were over 10% more employed doctors in 2012 compared with 2008. However, the number has stabilised or slowed in countries hard hit by the crisis. Despite this upward trend, with a third of doctors over 55 years of age, many European countries could face a shortage of doctors in future, particularly in rural areas.

OECD (2014), Health at a Glance: Europe 2014, OECD Publishing.

©OECD Observer 302 April 2015

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