European men lag behind in life expectancy

elderly man
Image caption The report found big inequalities in life expectancy

European men are lagging behind women in terms of life expectancy, a major new report reveals.

Although people are living longer than ever before, men have seen less improvement and are "a generation behind" women, say the authors.

The World Health Organization team who looked at data for nearly nine million people in 53 countries.

It says men have not yet reached the average rise in years of life that women enjoyed back in 1980.

The gap between the sexes is 7.5 years.

As of 2010, women in Europe can expect to live for an average of 80 years, while men reach an average of 72.5 years.

The researchers say that lifestyle and occupational differences "largely explain this gap".

The European Health Report also reveals big inequalities in average life expectancy between different countries. And these differences are greatest in men.

The gap between the best and worst countries for male life expectancy is 17 years. For women it is 12.

Countries with the widest male-female difference in survival included Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Those with the smallest were Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

In the UK, the average life expectancy in 2010 was 80 years - 82.5 years for females and 78.5 for males.

The leading health risk factors for Europeans today include tobacco and harmful alcohol use. Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer, followed by cancer.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO's regional director for Europe, said: "There are persistent and widespread inequities in health across the region, which in some cases are worsening.

"These are unnecessary and unjust and must be a priority for us to address collectively."

Prof Alan White, chairman of the Men's Health Forum and professor of men's health at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: "Men are not programmed to die young.

"Although the survival gap between men and women has always been present it does not have to be so wide."

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