Life values

OECD Observer

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Is there a connection between health spending and life expectancy? Not necessarily. As the latest edition of the OECD in Figures 2005 points out, the Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the OECD area, but their health spending, at nearly 8% of GDP, is far from being the highest. The US on the other hand has the highest health spending at some 15%, yet it clocks in at just 22nd when it comes to life expectancy–Americans can nevertheless expect to live past 77. The lowest spender is Korea (5.6% of GDP), with a life expectancy also of 77 years.

Six countries now have a life expectancy over 80, including Spain, whose health spending is just 7.7% of GDP. Turkey is the only OECD country where life expectancy is below 70, and its health spending, at 6.6% of GDP, is sixth lowest. Meanwhile, life expectancy is rising in all OECD countries. Another report, Long-term Care for Older People, says that the share of very old people (over 80) in the OECD population nearly trebled since 1960 to over 3% today, and is expected to more than double by 2040. This will put pressure on care services and costs unless informal care expands, the report says.

©OECD Observer No 251, September 2005

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