In the postwar period, the former GDR developed a comprehensive health care system that made steady advances in reducing infant mortality and extending life expectancy for both men and women. Early in the postwar period, life expectancy in some categories was actually longer for East Germans than for West Germans, and infant mortality was lower until 1980. However, starting in the mid-1970s, West Germany began to register longer life expectancies in every age-group, and after 1980 the infant mortality rate dropped below that of East Germany. In 1988 infant mortality in West Germany was 7.6 per 1,000 live births and 8.1 per 1,000 in East Germany.
The better health and longevity of West Germans probably stemmed from an increased interest in quality of life issues, personal health, and the environment. East Germans, in contrast, suffered the ill effects of the Soviet model of a traditional rust-belt industrial economy, with minimal concern for workers' safety and health and wanton disregard of the need to protect the environment. Improving environmental conditions and a more health-conscious way of living should gradually reduce remaining health differences among Germans. In mid-1995 unified Germany had an estimated mortality rate of about eleven per 1,000, and life expectancy was estimated at 76.6 years (73.5 years for males and 79.9 years for females). The major causes of death were the same as those of other advanced countries (see Current Health Care Issues and Outlook for the Future, ch. 4).
|Country Studies main page | Germany Country Studies main page|