But the PIIGS Get to Live Longer

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Germans work longer hours and retire later than many of their brethren in Europe, and after many years of shrinking real wages, they don’t even get paid that much anymore. But it succeeded, at least temporarily, and the dour mood of yore has been superseded by exuberance about their superior economic model. And what do Germans get for their hard work and strive? Well, probably a lot—but the one thing they’re not getting is extra time to live.

At least according to Eurostat. The statistical office of the European Union, which tries to put numbers on absolutely everything that is going on in its bailiwick, just released a study with two indicators: healthy life years and life expectancy at age 65. And in a nasty twist, some of the economic losers came out on top, and the big economic winner, Germany, well…

A 65-year-old German woman can look forward to 7.1 years of healthy life and a life expectancy of 20.9 years. For men, that number is even lower—a worldwide problem, and one of the greatest iniquities that should be addressed with the global imposition of equal-age amendments with quotas and all. Until that happens, a German man at 65 has only 6.9 years of healthy life ahead of him. And, despite all his efforts, he only gets to live another 17.8 years.

Woefully inadequate, compared to those of the leaders. In fact, they’re even below European averages: a European woman gets to enjoy a healthy life that is 1.7 years longer than that of her German sister; with men, the difference is 1.8 years.

What is it with the hapless Germans? Maybe they don’t eat enough olive oil and fruit or can’t resist the temptation of their pork products. Or they work too hard and don’t smile enough. Whatever. One thing is for sure, they don’t just fund the bailout of Greece with their hard-earned euros, but they’re also paying for it physically.

Because in Greece, a 65-year-old woman can expect a healthy life that is one year longer than that of her German sister, while a Greek man gets a whopping 1.9 years over his German brother. No wonder Germans are drawn to Greece like ferrous scrap to an industrial magnet. However, Germany manages to keep its elderly women on life support for an extra 6 months, though German men get shortchanged by about 5 months against their Greek counterparts.

Perhaps confirming all the hogwash about the Mediterranean diet, France, Spain, and Italy offered their women the longest life expectancy as part of their Latin fringe benefits package. For men it was France, Spain, and … oh boy, I hate to tell you Germans this … Greece!

And then there is another bailed-out PIIGS country of note: Ireland. A woman at age 65 can look forward to a stunning 11.2 years of healthy life, and a man to 11.1 years. That’s a mind-boggling 4.1 years and 4.2 years more than what Germans can expect. The unfairness simply doesn’t let up. And Ireland is certainly not on the Mediterranean diet. Of the PIIGS, only Portugal is worse off than Germany.

But here is a stunner for Mediterranean diet freaks: The healthy-life indicator maxed out in Norway with 15.7 and 14.5 years respectively for women and men, followed by Sweden with 15.5 and 14.1 years, followed by bankrupt Iceland with 14.8 and 13.4 years. So, what about the Nordic Diet? I do love fish for breakfast, and Swedish potatoes are out of this world. Whatever these people do right, they stay healthy longer but then die more quickly. Not a bad deal.

Compare that to Slovakia where a 65-year-old woman only has 2.8 years of healthy life ahead of her and a guy only 3.3 years—one of the few cases where men have the advantage. Finally a place that’s even rougher on its people than Germany.

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