So the health is different in the West and the East

After the fall of the wall, rushed doctors from the West to the East. They wanted to investigate how the health of the citizens, differences tracking. A realization: In the East suffered significantly fewer people have allergies than in the West.

How has this relationship until today? Where exist even 30 years after the reunification, differences between East and West? And what could be the problem? The health of the balance sheet to 30 years of reunification:

1. Life expectancy: women are equal to men, not quite

As of 1989, the wall fell apart, gaped, life expectancy in East and West Germany is still significantly. While in the East-born young only statistically nearly 70 life had seen years before, and could hope for the young in the West to more than 73 years. In the case of girls, who were born in 1989, the life expectancy is around 77 years in the East, in the West, it was almost 80.

This was mainly in the health system: Although all citizens in the GDR insured. In addition, in nurseries and schools, and regular checkups were in Pregnant women. Who became seriously ill, however, had to fear for his treatment. An artificial joint or heart surgery patients waited, sometimes for two years, only 40 percent of the hard-to-kidney patients received a dialysis place, writes the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.

In the past 30 years the differences in life expectancy are gone – at least for the women. Not so with the men. According to the Robert Koch Institute, more men die, especially in the group of 15 – to 44-Year-olds in the East than in the West. The main causes: accidents, alcoholic liver disease, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

2. Satisfaction: The West-East Divide

The people in East Germany 30 years after the fall of the wall less satisfied with the health care at their place of residence than people in the West German länder. The data from the BAH health monitor show.

In the Interpretation it is, however, to bear in mind: The population in Eastern Germany is also older and, accordingly, are more often chronically ill. In addition, the East is less populated and patients have to travel further to reach a doctor. That is to say: East Germans are probably just unhappy with the health care in the country – as well the West would be German.

3. Allergies: the protection of The GDR-children

Outdated factories and power plants polluted in the GDR in the air. After the fall of the Berlin wall, doctors attempted from the West, to demonstrate that the air pollution allergies had promoted. Their research but the opposite: While in the new länder, only about six percent of the people suffered from allergies, there were in West Germany, almost twelve percent of the population.

In the years after the turn of the proportion of Allergy sufferers has soared in the two Parts of the Republic to the top, as the graphic shows. Looking only at the children, so there is no difference now between the West and the East determined.

An explanation for the divergence is shortly after the turn of the so-called hygiene hypothesis. In the GDR, many of the children came with a few months in the crib, they also had on average more siblings. Both of these provided for a lively exchange of bacteria and viruses at the beginning of life, the – in theory – reduces the risk of allergies.

However, there is also criticism of the theory, since they are based only on observations and the relationship between pathogens and allergies, not a hundred percent can prove. Other similar accepted explanation for the phenomenon is lacking, however.

4. Cardiovascular diseases: The East is catching up still

For decades, the risk decreases in Germany, on cardiovascular to die of diseases such as heart attacks or strokes – in the East even more than in the West. This has also contributed to the life expectancy equalizes.

The mortality in the East is still somewhat higher, in turn, has to do with the health care in the country. In the case of a heart attack, every Minute counts. In the sparsely populated areas of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the travel time to the heart emergency care is often more than 40, sometimes even 60 or 80 minutes.

This Problem can be, and is a little less strong – however, some sparsely populated areas in the West of Germany, the Eifel, North Friesland or the Bavarian-Thuringian border area.

5. The accessibility of pharmacies and Doctors: The nearest town-country-Problem

Here, too, we see a similar pattern: In sparsely populated regions, people have to travel the longest way to Doctors and pharmacies. This applies in particular to the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Northern Saxony-Anhalt. Only a fraction of the population has a family doctor or a pharmacy within a maximum radius of one kilometre. So we see a West-East differences, which are mainly urban-rural differences.

Accessibility of family doctors
Proportion of the population with a maximum of 1000 meters air-line distance to the next house doctor.
light yellow = less than 20 %; dark red = over 80 %

Accessibility of pharmacies
Proportion of the population with a maximum of 1000 meters air-line distance to the nearest pharmacy.
light yellow = less than 20 %; dark red = over 80 %

6. Alcohol Consumption: Contaminated Land

In the new Federal States, there are significantly more deaths due to alcohol:

Even more significant than the East-West-difference the difference between men and women, however. Men die much more frequently, for example, of liver disease or cancer, back to alcohol.

The regional differences in death cases does not mean, moreover, that in the East generally, more is drunk than in the West. According to the statistics, more people with acute alcohol end up in some West German länder poisoning in the hospital. What seems at first glance to be contradictory, can be explained.

In the case of acute alcoholic poisoning are individual events. Those who drink, for example, once a year at the Oktoberfest too much, not drinking is not necessarily in the rest of the months of regularly drinking too much alcohol. Who dies, however, today, the consequences of his alcohol consumption, has often started decades ago with the excessive Drinking.

In fact, it was consumed in hardly a country with so much beer and liquor as in the GDR, although excessive drinking was considered consumption as the “socialism are foreign to the nature”. Alcohol was a pleasure, buffs, and a medium of exchange, as well as a popular gift – and in contrast to other drugs available.

7. Pregnancies: The culture of the early child

Until today, women in the new länder, the birth of her first child nearly a year younger than in the old länder. At least from a health point of view, you have an advantage. Since the fertility decreases with age is the best age for conception is between 20 and 30.

“In the GDR, professional and family were easier to agree with each other, the children were encouraged get strong, mothers had a better chance on the labour and housing market,” says Martin Bujard from the Federal Institute for population research. “There were so many Alternatives to the family, such as extended travel or careers in their chosen Professions.”

The cultural differences show up today, among other things, at the time of weddings. “In the West is more likely to be married first and then children come; in Eastern Germany, approximately 60 per cent of first births occur outside of marriage, many get married later, but still,” said Bujard. The institutional childcare in Eastern Germany to be the a lot of accepted.

The scientist considers that it is conceivable that the age of the mothers is to align with the birth of their first child in West and East sometime. “But that can take a very long time,” he says.

8. Vaccinate: a state-prescribed, until today

“Socialism is the best prevention”, flaunted as a model in the GDR of partition walls in front of hospitals. Many of the vaccinations were mandatory. Today will be vaccinated in the new länder than in the old. So around 2017 had received in the Eastern provinces of 94.4 percent of the children of the second measles vaccination, in the Western it was only 92.6 percent.


In 1989, the health of the average East German difference still significantly from that of an average West German, life in the different systems had left the track. Since then, it has adjusted from life expectancy, cardiovascular diseases up to the age of the mothers are much attached. The differences between the West and the East have become significantly lower.

Why are there any deviations? In part, health effects do not show until years later, and also cultural differences disappear only gradually. Where people in the new Federal States are still at a disadvantage, the causes are often in the urban-rural gap in Differences between the East and the West.