Israel’s life expectancy is higher than average, int’l data shows

OECD report claims Israelis live longer than average, drink less, commit suicide less

An empty hospital bed at Hasharon Hospital (photo credit: Courtesy)
An empty hospital bed at Hasharon Hospital
(photo credit: Courtesy)

An annual OECD report which examines the health data of its 38 member countries found that Israelis drink less alcohol and commit suicide less than people in other countries. But there are also negative findings. Here are all the details.

For the past two years we’ve complained about our healthcare system, fearing that it would collapse under the demands of the pandemic, so the following figures may surprise you. 

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which examines the various health indices of its member states, found that Israel's situation isn’t too bad.

According to the report, the average life expectancy of an Israeli man has increased in recent years and is almost three years longer than the average among men in OECD countries (81 in Israel compared to an average of 78.3). Among women, life expectancy is even higher, although the difference is smaller: 84.8 vs. 83.6, about a year more than the OECD average. The combined life expectancy of the population is 82.9 years, among the highest in the OECD.

It’s important to note that these statistics report on 2019, before COVID-19, so it’s possible that the data in future reports will show the effect of the pandemic on various indices.

Illustrative photo of two elderly people staring at a beach.  (credit: BRUNO AGUIRRE/UNSPLASH)Illustrative photo of two elderly people staring at a beach. (credit: BRUNO AGUIRRE/UNSPLASH)

Why is life expectancy higher in Israel?

The report shows a few more important things about the Israeli lifestyle. For example, the rate of alcohol consumption here is significantly lower than the average of the organization's countries, standing at 3.1 liters per year, just over a third of the 8.8-liter average among the other countries of the organization, making it one of the lowest in the OECD.

Another measure in which Israel excels is the suicide rate. This alarming number did increase in 2019, standing at 6 per 100,000 people. However, this rate is only about a half of the OECD average, which stands at 11.6.

In terms of smoking and obesity, which both significantly affect life expectancy, Israel is in the middle. The rate of smokers in Israel in 2019 was 16.4% of the population aged 15 and over, close to the average rate of OECD countries (16.3%). The obesity rate here was 17.7%, also similar to the OECD average (17.5%).

Did our health system buckle under the demands of coronavirus?

Israel ranks third in the OECD in the percentage of those holding voluntary health insurance, with a rate of 84.1%. The rate of expenditure on health from GDP in Israel stands at a stable 7.5%, lower than most OECD countries (27th out of 37) with the group average being 8.9%.

The rate of doctors active per thousand people is about 9% lower than the average in OECD countries and stands at about 3.3 doctors per thousand people. The rate of nurses per thousand people is one of the lowest in the OECD with five nurses per thousand.

The rate of beds for general hospitalization in Israel is also relatively low compared to other countries that are members of the organization (fourth from the bottom of the list), standing at about 2.2 beds per thousand people, compared to an average of 3.5 in the OECD

The rate of MRI devices per million inhabitants in Israel is 5.1. Despite the significant increase in recent years in the number of machines, Israel is in a low position compared to the OECD average of 17, with only Mexico and Colombia having a lower rate than the Jewish state.

"OECD data faithfully reflect the state of the health system in Israel, which shows excellent results, but with relatively low resources," said Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash. He said that in the last two years health care staff have pushed themselves more than ever and led the health system to excellence, and he thanked them for that. Healthcare systems worldwide are now facing a shake-up and he expects OECD data to show very interesting findings in the coming years.