High percentage of Maltese satisfied with their health - The Times - 13/8/2004

But 43 per cent feel stressed regularly
Cynthia Busuttil - The Times

Almost 90 per cent of the Maltese are "fairly satisfied or very satisfied" with the state of their health, a European Union publication shows.

The study puts Malta in third place among the 25 EU member states and the three candidate countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Eighty per cent of Europeans said they were at least fairly satisfied with the state of their health, the report, by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, says.

Malta ranked fourth among the 28 countries with regard to citizens' satisfaction with the health care system, including social services. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 meaning the highest satisfaction, Malta scored more than six, the report says.

Satisfaction was higher among retired Maltese, who gave the health care system a score of 7.2. Housewives and working people gave it a score of 6.5, while the jobless ranked it at 5.6. Satisfaction was also highest among the elderly. This trend was reflected in most of the 28 countries.

The Medical Association of Malta's secretary-general, Martin Balzan, said the report placed Malta among the top countries as regards peoples' satisfaction with their own health and with the health care system.

"This is yet another feather in the cap of the local medical profession, which continues to provide the Maltese public with a first class service," he said. Dr Balzan said that compared to a similar survey carried two years ago, the satisfaction with the local health care service was on the increase.

Malta had the lowest percentage of people who reported having a long-term illness or disability. About 11 per cent answered "yes" to a question on whether they had any long-standing illness or disability that limited their activities in any way. Long-standing was explained as anything that has troubled a person over a period of time or that is likely to affect them for a period of time.

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Finland and Lithuania had more than 30 per cent of respondents claiming they had a long-term illness or disability. The average among the 25 EU members stood at about 20 per cent.

In Malta, the percentage of people who claim to have a long-term illness or disability is lower among people with the highest income, with 5.7 per cent answering yes to the question, as opposed to 11.7 per cent of those with the lowest income.

Around 43 per cent of respondents said they feel stressed regularly. Greece had the highest percentage - 72 per cent - of people who said they feel stressed regularly, while Slovenia had the lowest percentage - under 20 per cent. The average for the 25 EU members stands at about 38 per cent.

It was only in Malta and Cyprus that the percentage of non-working people who felt stressed was higher when compared to those who work. While in Cyprus the difference was marginal - with 58.9 per cent of those not working reporting being stressed regularly, as opposed to 58.5 of those working - in Malta the difference was of over seven per cent.

Around 45 per cent of Maltese people said they live less than 20 minutes away from a hospital and around 23 per cent have a hospital located within walking distance from their home. Only around six per cent of the Maltese people interviewed live one hour or more away from a hospital. Luxembourg and the Netherlands have the highest percentage of people living less than 20 minutes away from a hospital - around 70 per cent. Luxembourg also had 60 per cent of people living within walking distance of a hospital. With around 22 per cent, Bulgaria had the highest percentage living one hour or more away from a hospital.

Almost 90 per cent of Maltese people said they have access to a general practitioner's surgery in less than 20 minutes. This put Malta as the fifth ranking country among the 28. Denmark had the highest percentage, just over 90 per cent, of people who said they had access to a GP's surgery in less than 20 minutes, closely followed by The Netherlands, Spain and France.

Around 22 per cent of the Maltese said they looked after someone who has a long-term illness, is handicapped or elderly. Around seven per cent said they took care of someone living with them, while about 16 per cent said they cared for someone not living with them.

At 24 per cent, Latvia had the highest percentage of people caring for a co-resident while Finland had the highest percentage - 33 per cent - of people taking care of somebody not living in the same household.

Just over 14 per cent of Maltese respondents said they cared for elderly people. More than 80 per cent of respondents in Malta were in favour of working adults looking after their elderly parents. Just under 20 per cent said they supported residential care for elderly people.

The highest percentage of Maltese respondents - 64.5 per cent - said the elderly people themselves should pay for their own care. Just over 13.6 per cent said children should pay for their parents' care, while 11.6 per cent said the state or other public authorities should pay.

Dr Balzan said that despite the high percentage of Maltese stating that the elderly should be looked after by their family, in fact, Malta was among the lowest with regard to sick and old people being cared for at home.

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