'Jewish men live 3.7 years longer than Israeli Arabs'

National Health Report says major reason for gap is lifestyle differences, including tobacco use, regular exercise.

September 22, 2011 06:47
3 minute read.
10,000 ISRAELIS have taken course to quit smoking

man smoking 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The gap in life expectancy between Israeli Jews and Arabs – especially among men – has grown in recent years to 3.7 years, compared with only two years in 1998.

This is one of the trends evident from the 2010 National Health Report of the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control issued for publication on Thursday.

Although the report is statistical and does not offer explanations, it seems that a major reason for the gap is lifestyle differences, including tobacco use: 48.8 percent of Arab men still smoke, compared to 31.8% of all Israeli men and 14.8% of all Israeli women.

The high smoking rate among Arab men and the low smoking rate among Arab women raises the male national national smoking rate among men and lowers the female national smoking rate.

The incidence of cancer rose between 1979 and 2007 by 37% among Jewish men and 27% among Jewish women, compared to 140% among Arab men and 150% among Arab women; cancer rates had always been low among Arabs due to a more rural lifestyle.

Arab Israeli adults are significantly less likely to exercise regularly compared to their Jewish counterparts; 32.4% of the general population say they exercise at least three times a week for 20 minutes each session.

Among Jewish men, the self-reported exercise rate was 38% and of Jewish women 32.8%, compared to 23.8% for Arab men and 15.4% of Arab women.

Infant mortality has dropped in all sectors, both Jewish and Arab, but it remains more than twice as high among Israeli Arab babies; it now totals 3.8 per 1,000 live births. The rate in the Jewish sector is 2.9, compared to 6.5 per 1,000 live births among Arabs. The main causes of death in babies up to the age of one year is premature birth and congenital defects. During the past decade, infant mortality dropped by 78%, with the rate of decline similar in all sectors.

At the same time, life expectancy has grown by nine years during the past 30 years. The average life expectancy at birth in 2008 was 79.1 years for men and 83 years for women. In the Jewish sector, the figures were 79.6 and 83.4, respectively, compared to 75.9 and 79.7 in the Arab sector. The main causes of death in Israel are cancer (25% of all deaths), followed by 18% from cardiovascular disease.

Due to prevention of and improved treatment for heart disease in the past 30 years, death rates from these diseases dropped by 63% in men and 68% in women. But mortality from heart disease is still 1.5 times higher among Arab men than Jews and 1.3 times higher among Arab women compared to their Jewish counterparts.

Also due to prevention and better treatment, the rate of strokes has declined in the past three decades by 62.7% among Jewish males and 75% among Jewish females but only 58% in Arab men and 62% of Arab women. Arab men are 1.2 times more like to die of a stroke than Jewish men, and Arab women 1.7 times more like to die of a stroke than their Jewish counterparts.

Breast cancer remains the most common type of malignant tumor in women and prostate cancer among men. In both sexes, colorectal cancer is the second most common type of tumor.

Complications of uncontrolled diabetes were the third most common cause of death. While 8% of adults have diabetes, the rate rises to 20% among people aged 65 and up. The highest diabetes rate was found among Arab women, with a third of those over 55 diagnosed. The cause is apparently obesity and other lifestyle problems.

Most infectious diseases have declined in the past two decades, according to the 500- page report. But there has been an increase in in campyulobacteriosis (a foodborne disease caused by bacteria), whooping cough, gonorrhea and chlamydia (these two both sexually transmitted infections).

Nearly a fifth of adults were diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and a similar number with high blood cholesterol; these figures are almost twice as high among people of pension age. A third of the population are overweight, with 15% obese.

As for mental problems, almost 15% of women and 9.6% of men suffered at least once from more-than-passing depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder was diagnosed in 1.7% of women and 1.2% of men.

Alcohol and drug abusers constituted 9.1% of men and 1.6% of women in Israel, according to the report.

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