If just one percentage point of smokers were to give up the habit, healthcare costs in the Netherlands would go down by some €650m on an annual basis, Dutch research into the effects of smoking, drinking and exercise have found.
The researchers focused on neighbourhoods composed of different socio-economic groups and translated the effects in terms of costs to the healthcare system.
‘If you have a neighbourhood where 40% of people smoke and compare it to one where 39% smoke the individual healthcare expense is an average €40 less,’ Jochen Mierau of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health told NOS.
The same holds true for sports which would produce a reduction of €25 per person if just 1% of people where to take up more exercise.
The research also found that promoting sports club and gym membership and encouraging people to stop smoking will lead to lower healthcare costs regardless of income or educational level. Promoting physical exercise outside of clubs is particularly successful in poorer areas.
Healthcare costs are lower in the more affluent neighbourhoods where people are drinking more than the recommended amount, possibly because of the compensatory effects of a higher income and better food and working conditions, Mirau said.
The research results come in the wake of comments by health minister Wopke Hoekstra who said the rising healthcare costs were becoming ‘unsustainable in the long term’.
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