Health and happiness

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Austrian Health Academy

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Health and happiness

Happiness into old age

Health and satisfaction are our most precious goods. The welfare state offers us security and protection in many areas, but there are still risks of physical or psychological stress at any age. Active and happy ageing begins during pregnancy. We therefore need a wide range of support services that take into account a person‘s entire life cycle.

Austria is a prosperous country with a stable economy and a high quality of life. Compared to the OECD average, it has also improved in recent years. However, comparable other European countries perform better in almost all dimensions. There is a need to catch up here.

High level of well-being
OECD Better-Life-Index 2016

At the federal state level, performance is good compared with regions in OECD countries and has improved in recent years. In some areas, however, differences have also increased, e.g. in spending on research and development and in unemployment, including women‘s participation in the labour market compared to men.

Dimensions of well-being
Relative performance of the Austrian provinces within the OECD regions

In the 20th century, average life expectancy rose from 47 to 73 years. However, the maximum life expectancy has not increased. Today, 85 years are considered a healthy lifetime [Bulletin of the WHO 2002].


Much research has already been done into which factors favour the occurrence of diseases, impair health in old age or significantly shorten life expectancy.

  • Social factors (e.g. loneliness, poverty, lack of education, war, fear of life and fear for the safety of life),
  • biological problems (e.g. overweight, chronic poisoning - partly already in the womb, tobacco and alcohol consumption, severe inflammations, metabolic diseases and cardiovascular diseases) as well as
  • psychological stress (e.g. child behavioral abnormalities, chronic stress)

have a negative impact on a person‘s healthy development.


Several studies are also available in Austria for these factors (e. g. [Lesch et al 1988], [Lesch et al 2011]). In addition, we already know a great deal about individual clinical pictures, e. g. about addiction and obesity [Blümel et al 2011].


We know quite well what preventive measures are necessary and in the 20th century many very important measures were already taken (e. g. clean water, waste water management, vaccinations, mother-child passport). A recent synopsis of studies shows that investment in child and youth health costs relatively little and is worthwhile – even if the financial benefits only materialise in the course of a lifetime. These financial advantages do not only lie in the area of health: investments in the health of (very) young people pay off later, for example, in the income of adults and because of reduced crime [Fischer et al 2017].


Although we already know a lot and a number of measures have already been taken, there is still a lot to do: For example, there is a lack of a modern education policy in which the development of the personality – and not just the idea of achievement – is in the foreground. Social policy would have to take much greater account of the fact that many people – often women – are pushed to the margins and end up in the poverty trap and/or in inhumane working conditions. We also need more support for the formation of groups that are committed and pursue common goals, and more resources for adequate help in different life situations. The development of health literacy and the socially oriented promotion of health are therefore very important. The period of life in the womb and the time from childbirth to entering kindergarten are important intervention periods. This is where the foundation for a healthy life is laid. But this is precisely where prevention hardly takes place. We need a system in which every person is seen as an individual and receives the support he or she needs at the right time.

Selected Literature

Blüml V, Kapusta N, Vyssoki B, Kogoj D, Walter H, Lesch OM (2011). Relationship between substance use and body mass index in young males. Am J Addict. 2012 Jan-Feb;21(1):72-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2011.00192.x. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


Ferraro KF, Janet M. Wilmoth JM (2006). Gerontology: Perspectives and Issues, Third Edition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


Fischer S, Stanak M (2017). Social Return on Investment in Child and Adolescence Health, Outcomes, Methods, and Economic Parameters, Final Report. LBI-HTA Project Report No./Projektbericht Nr.: 96 ISSN: 1992-0488. Wien


Lesch OM, Dietzel M, Musalek M, Walter H, Zeiler K (1988). The Course of alcoholism, Long Term Prognosis in different types In: Forensic Sci. Int. 36/1-2:121-138


Lesch OM, Walter H, Wetschka C, Hesselbrock M, Hesselbrock V (2011) Alcohol and Tobacco. Springer Wien New York, 2011


Shock NW, Greulich RC, Costa PT jr., Andres R, Lakatta EG, Arenberg D et al (1984). Normal human aging: The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Small, A. W. (1904). A review of The nature of man.

  • sensitization of the society for the topic “healthy aging“.
  • strategic marketing for the importance of health and social policy in all areas of society (“Health in All Politics“).
  • mediation of motivational strategies for a change in lifestyle for everyone.
  • to publish current data and facts.
  • to build up a documentation archive “Good and happy living“.
  • to develop proposals: Which effective psychosocial services should be part of the planned mother-child passport until the age of 18?
  • assistance during pregnancy and at/after birth.
  • the teaching of problem-solving skills already in early childhood.
  • early help in crises.
  • documentation of effective programmes, inclusion and identification of multipliers.
  • more and better training for health professions.