Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is no longer any difference in the quality of health care between East and West. Only certain diseases and health behaviors of people differ.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Federal Bureau of Statistics have concluded in their recently published journal Health Health Monitoring that the differences between the old and the new federal states in terms of health are nearly closing.
Particularly given the life expectancy and fall in cardiovascular mortality, there has been a convergence, mainly due to faster achievements in the East.
Differences in individual diseases
in cancer women in the new states have a lower incidence rate than women in the old states. In men, the opposite is true.
The most common cancer in women is breast cancer – both in the West and in the East. However, women from the west are significantly more likely to develop breast cancer again. Breast cancer death rates in the West are about 20 percent higher than in East Germany. The authors of the Health Report mention the "protective factors" of women in the East: higher birth rates, lower age at first birth, less likely children without children.
In men, prostate cancer (23 percent) and lung cancer (13.9 percent) are the most common cancers, with no east-west gradient in frequency distribution. However, if women develop lung cancer, the death rate in the old states increased faster than in the new one. This is explained by the fact that significantly more women in the west smoked before the fall of the Berlin Wall than in the east. Smoking rates have become the first in recent years.
In the city area mental illness the differences are "pretty low" according to the report. Thus, 37 percent of women in the East have a mental illness and 34 percent in the West. The prevalence of men in West Germany is 23 percent; in East Germany at 20 percent.
According to research, depression is diagnosed more often in the new states. As a possible explanation, the publishers of the Health Report cite a lower density of psychotherapy facilities in the East, which means that fewer treatment sites are available.
Especially in the states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, the prevalence of obesity each with more than 20 percent, significantly more than in the rest of the Republic.
Health behaviors in the East and West also vary with age
On the other hand, there are still major differences in the way health behaviors are measured in relation to the use of prescription drugs: in the East, more doses of influenza vaccines, more antidiabetic drugs and more contraceptives are given to women under the age of 20 based on prescriptions. On the other hand, more antibiotics and more individual prescriptions are prescribed in the west for those secured by law.
It is also striking that in the next generation of today 20 to 30 years, West Germans take more medication than East Germans, while this ratio is reversed in the generation of their grandparents from 70 to 80 years. These figures are by the German Institute for Drug Testing (DAPI), on behalf of the Federal Association of German Pharmaceutical Physicians (ABDA).
"Demographic and different disease profiles are not the only reasons for this difference, because socialization from different health systems continues to have an effect," says Friedemann Schmidt, president of ABDA.
East-West focus "too short"
The authors of the Journal of Health Monitoring conclude by pointing out that looking at the differences between East and West is a cruel consideration. Instead, a smaller scale analysis should be sought, based less on the direction of the compass than on the health gap between city and country – and throughout Germany.