How the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the health of the French

Posted 5 Dec. 2022 at 16:32Updated 5 Dec. 2022 at 16:49

The Covid pandemic has had multiple and very sensitive effects on the health of Europeans. This is shown in a report entitled “Health Panorama: Europe 2022” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), published on Monday. The French were largely impacted. A look back at the main results of this study, in six points.

1. An explosion in health spending

The pandemic has led to a sharp rise in healthcare spending in Europe. In France, they jumped 8.5% in real terms in 2021. This is the strongest growth in 30 years.

This increase is mainly due to the strengthening of the screening campaign and the start of the vaccination campaign against Covid. The increase in hospital expenses and city care are also highlighted.

As a proportion of GDP, health expenditure has thus fallen from 11.1% in 2019 to 12.2% in 2020 and 12.4% in 2021. While the trend is similar in most European countries, in France, the share of health expenditure in GDP is the second highest among all EU countries in 2020 and 2021, after Germany.

2. A decrease in life expectancy

The Covid caused, in 2021, a drop of more than a year in life expectancy compared to the level before the pandemic. This is the biggest drop seen in most EU countries since World War II. By the end of October 2022, more than 1.1 million deaths from Covid had been recorded in the 27 EU countries.

In detail, France is the second most affected country, with 171,000 dead behind Italy. However, life expectancy in France was less affected than at European level. It thus fell by 0.5 years between 2019 and 2021. The impact of Covid on life expectancy was much stronger in central and eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria (-3.7 years), Slovakia (-3 years) or Romania (-2.7 years).

3. A strong impact on the mental health of young people

During the pandemic, the mental health of the French population has deteriorated, as in most other countries in Europe. Young people have been the most affected. The proportion of young people aged 18-24 in France reporting symptoms of depression was twice as high on average during the pandemic (20%) than before the pandemic (10%).

The most recent figures show no improvement. In September 2022, the proportion of young people with symptoms of depression still remained twice as high as before the pandemic. Adults are not spared either. In France, symptoms of depression in adults peaked at over 20% during lockdowns and fell to 15% in May 2022. This rate remains higher than before the pandemic (13.5%).

4. A decrease in physical activity

The pandemic has also had an impact on the physical activity of the French. A survey conducted during the first confinement, in April 2020, on 4,000 adults, revealed that 45% of them reported a reduction in physical activity and 59% an increase in screen viewing.

The youngest have also been impacted by the containment measures and their relationship to food has changed. In a survey in France, 42% of parents said their children asked for food more often, sometimes out of boredom.

5. An impact on the organization of care

The pandemic has also disrupted the delivery of primary health care, cancer screening and treatment programs, continuity of care for people with chronic conditions, and elective surgeries. In Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France and Denmark more than 40% of people with a chronic disease said that some care had been canceled or postponed.

On the positive side, however, in many countries, teleconsultations have at least partially offset the decline in in-person medical consultations during the pandemic.

6. Flu shot up and down

The epidemic has finally favored an increase in vaccination against seasonal influenza among people aged 65 and over. In the 2020-2021 campaign, compared to that of 2019-2020, an increase of 8 percentage points was recorded. The vaccination rate was then 60%. This level of coverage was maintained during the 2021-2022 campaign.

On the other hand, concerns exist for the current campaign, which began on October 18. A much slower start has been observed, raising fears of a return to a pre-pandemic level of coverage, i.e. around 50%. The coverage rate in France would thus deviate from the WHO recommendations. The institution sets the threshold for seasonal flu vaccination coverage at 75% for people at risk.

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