Israelis report better mental than physical health

Elderly men more likely than women to report good health, survey reveals.

mental 88 (photo credit: )
mental 88
(photo credit: )
Half of Israeli adults rate their physical health as excellent or very good, while nearly two-thirds say the same of their mental health. These were some of the findings of the latest National Health Survey, prepared to represent Israel along with 26 other countries for the World Health Organization. The 30-page survey, released by the Health Ministry on Sunday, said the data came from 2003/4. The Central Bureau of Statistics conducted hour-long face-to-face interviews in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian with nearly 5,000 people, who constituted a representative sample of Israelis over age 20. The survey - based on subjective self-reporting - covered 90 pages of multiple choice and background questions. It is aimed at allowing policymakers to compare health statistics with other countries and to plan health services and programs, the authors said. Through age 64, men and women reported similar health status, but beyond retirement age, men were more than twice as likely than women (18.3 percent vs. 8.7%) to say they enjoyed very good or excellent health. Arabs aged 45 to 64 were less likely to say they enjoyed very good or excellent health than Jews (27% vs. 39%), while immigrants from the former Soviet Union reported a high health level much less often (16%) than those from other countries, which ranged from 37% to 79%. After retirement, men were also more likely than women to say their mental health was very good or excellent (40% vs. 30.7%). Arabs were less likely to report a high mental health level than Jews, as were immigrants from the FSU. More than 28% of Israelis over age 65 reported having been diagnosed with heart disease, with higher rates among men than women in every age group. Nearly 14% of those over 75 said they had had a heart attack. Half of those beyond retirement said they had been diagnosed with hypertension and 6% said they had had a stroke. Joint disorders such as arthritis were twice as prevalent among women than men, and when they reached 75 and beyond, women were three times as likely to complain of joint disease. Nearly 10% of Israelis over 21 reported having some physical disability - either congenital, from disease or from an accident - that made it difficult for their to carry out routine activities at home. Over 75, two-fifths of women and a quarter of men said they had such disability. About 8% of the respondents (which would mean about 322,000 Israelis) said they suffered from emotional problems or anxiety during the previous 12 months. The prevalence was higher among Arabs than Jews, the non-employed than working people, and unmarried people than married. The lower the educational level, the more likely a person would complain of such emotional symptoms. In addition, 14.4% (equivalent to 568,000 people) over 21 said that they had suffered from emotional problems or anxiety sometime during their lives. Women, Arabs, the unmarried and those with less education were more likely to report this. Nearly one in five of respondents said they had consulted professionals or "traditional therapists" about emotional or mental problems. Jews were three times more likely to seek help than Arabs, and women were more likely to go than men. Almost a third of adults complained of sleep problems during the previous year, with this being significantly more common among women (35.7%) than men (23.5%). The older the respondent, the more likely they are to have sleep problems, with half of those over 65 reporting them. Almost 29% claimed to pursue physical activity at least three times a week, with lower rates among Arabs. Israelis aged 65 to 74, who have more time, are most likely to exercise. A little more than half of the population had drunk alcohol for nonritual purposes during the previous year. More than three quarters of the Arabs, compared to 45% of the Jews, said they had not touched alcohol for nonreligious purposes during the previous 12 months. Asked if they drank three or more alcoholic beverages a week, 3.6% said they had, with men, especially immigrants from the FSU, much more likely to do so than women. Use of hashish or marijuana at least once was reported by 11.4%, compared to 0.5% to 1.7% for other drugs such as cocaine or heroin. A fifth said they had been victims of physical violence, with the same rate among men and women and a higher rate of reported violence among Jews than Arabs. FSU immigrants had a very high rate (29.5%), as did divorced people (34.9%). A quarter of pensioners said they had been hospitalized during the previous year. A total of 53 million visits to the doctor occurred on a national scale during the 12 months before the interview, while the average number of visits to the dentist was 2.8 per capita per year. About 14% of adults admitted to being obese (with a body mass index of over 30), but this declined for those over 65. Obesity is higher among Arabs than Jews, and among FSU immigrants compared to those originating in other countries.